Ella and the Ocean

Winner 2022 Tasmanian Literary Award for Children's Books
Winner 2020 NSW Premier's Award for Children's Literature
Shortlisted 2020 Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year
Longlisted 2020 CBCA Picture Book of the Year

A very Australian story of drought and renewal, of family, of imagination and of the power of hope. Illustrated by Jonathan Bentley, the CBCA Notable illustrator of Where is Bear?

Ella lived in the red-dirt country
where the earth was as dry as old bones
and it hadn’t rained
for years
and years
and years.

One night, Ella dreamt of the ocean…

Now and again a book makes me hold my breath, amazed at the way the story is told, astonished at how the illustrations and text coalesce, dazzled by the aptness of the illustrations, drawing me into the power of its theme. And this is such a one.

Fran Knight,

Bentley uses strong, saturated colours and sketchy, scribbled images to present washed-out azure skies, vivid ochre soil and stark, skeletal trees and cattle. This imagery enhances the emotional intensity of Tanner's deft storytelling in this beautifully presented tale about family, resilience and hope.

Stephanie Owen Reeder, Canberra Times

Ella and the Ocean is a flawlessly composed and executed picture book. It is perfect for young children and will continue to delight on multiple readings thanks to its sophisticated, multilayered and allusive text. While at the simplest level this is a story about a child and her desire to see the ocean, the book has extraordinary depth, exploring drought, climate change, family, resilience, dreams and hope. The Australian landscape is celebrated and the natural world affirmed. The writing is simple, yet metaphorical, sensory and evocative with evocative repetition of descriptions of the dry-as-bone land, the revitalising ocean and broken and anticipated dreams. The cyclic narrative arc is consummately crafted. Words and illustrations align effortlessly and the artwork shows an exceptional quality of meaning and depth to conjure family and country – the despair on Dad’s face, Ella’s inquisitive childhood innocence and the juxtaposition of red dirt and blue ocean to create a visceral response.

Judges' comments, Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature

[T]he panel determined this utterly unique picture book to be profound and original, with language that is layered and lyrical, and images that perfectly complement its exploration of hope and holding onto dreams in times of struggle. The book’s message of belief in tough times, masterfully written by a Tasmanian storyteller at the top of her game, is resonant and captivating, whilst also being perfectly complemented by illustrations that utilise perspective, colour and expression in a way that brings Ella’s imagination to astonishing life on the page.

Judges' comments, Tasmanian Literary Awards

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