Tania McCartney – Dorrie

Angus & Robertson, an imprint of HarperCollinsChIldren’sBooks, Australia, 2023

Dorrie/The Creator of Blinky Bill is the latest dip into literary history by Canberra-based author/illustrator Tania McCartney (in 2018 she wrote about May Gibbs, creator of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie). As well as being a prolific creator of children’s fiction picture books, Tania has long taken an intense interest in many aspects of Australian history, geography, natural history and society.

Barbie talks to Tania McCartney about Dorrie

The author and illustrator combine in this ever-curious, creative soul to bring multi-layered stories and Dorrie is no exception. Dorothy Wall’s real biography reads like quite a sad tale, actually. Clearly talented and adventurous from a young age, she travelled and dreamt in search of an independent artistic career, enjoying early but short-lived success with the Blinky Bill books. Debt and ill health plagued her till her death in 1942 at the age of just 48. 

In this depiction of her life and work, Tania McCartney focuses on Dorothy Wall’s creativity and love of nature. The pages are full of a mostly pensive Dorothy surrounded by birds, creatures and art and craft materials. The high point of inspiration is shown in the creation of her much loved character Blinky Bill, bringing with it the playfulness of her youth. The sadder elements of Dorothy Wall’s life are mostly absent from this story for children, though they are evident to adult readers.

As we expect from this author/illustrator, the pages are replete with objects for discussion and avenues for interpretation and character analysis. Or they can simply be enjoyed as things of gentle beauty. The book is an homage to a writer not really recognised properly in her time, but whose work has endured and hence achieved its greatness in the 21st century.

It’s important that the creators of children’s picture books broach the subjects that Tania tackles, giving ready access to our Australian history, geography and sociology to young readers and listeners.

Books like Dorrie also have the flow on effect of leading our children (and perhaps their parents) to seek out the source material. This gives a new generation or two the chance to enjoy the cheery tales of the cheeky lad, anthropomorphic koala, Blinky Bill himself. And that has to be a good thing.

Thank you to HarperCollinsChIldren’sBooks, Australia, 2023 for my review copy and to Tania for writing stories that children need to hear and for always being ready to speak about her love of picture books.