The Essential Leunig: Cartoons From A Winding Path
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig’s work has been appearing in newspapers and magazines for decades. His quirky style has attracted many admirers and also some criticism too as Leunig has never been afraid to make a political or social statement or allow his drawings to give commentary to contentious issues.
In this collection, Leunig has personally selected 400 of his pieces in a beautifully presented hardcover coffee-table style book. Despite the fact that the pieces have been selected from what is almost a lifetime’s work, it’s almost impossible to tell where and when in that time he has chosen them from. Most of them reflect a relevance to today or to some part of life that is recognisable to the reader.
This is a first for me – I’ve never reviewed a book on this blog that didn’t have a plot or actually, hardly any words at all! I was vaguely familiar with Leunig’s work but I wouldn’t have said that I was an avid fan. When my copy of this book arrived, I showed it to my husband because I’m always excited by books that arrive in the mail and usually that leads to this conversation:
Him: (as he looks over a romance/rural lit/YA title) “Why don’t you ever get books for review that I would like to read?”
Me: Uhh, I don’t know, maybe because they’re for me to read and review and not you?
However when the Leunig book arrived, he pounced on it. “What a beautiful book, I would love this! I’m definitely going to look at it when you’re finished … or *cough* when you’re out tonight and I’m home.” And he whisked it away.
A few days later it mysteriously reappeared and I made myself comfortable to sit down and presumably, flick through a portion and pick some favourites. To my surprise I sat on the couch for over an hour and looked at every single piece in there. The great thing about this book is you can do as I found out my husband was doing, steal it for a day or two and look at several pieces at a time, or you can do as I did and pretty much take in the whole book, start to finish. There are drawings that made me laugh, ones that I related to, ones that I just thought were cute and to be honest, ones I didn’t understand at all! There are also ducks, quite a lot of ducks (what’s with the ducks?).
And there are cartoons that are scarily insightful of our society these days.
And there are cartoons that simply celebrate something wonderful.
I had such a fun time flipping through this book, I really admire people who can draw because I have absolutely zero talent for it whatsoever. These cartoons look deceptively simple most of the time, the majority in black and white with only a few beautifully coloured but when you take the time to look, you notice so much going on. It’s deceptively light, so I never felt like I was handling a massive hardback and would probably make the perfect gift. In fact, I’m thinking of getting a copy for my grandfather when we visit them this Christmas. It definitely has a very wide appeal, as the fact that both myself and my husband loved it can testify to. We both are passionate about reading, but we do have very different tastes and they do not often cross over! It was nice that we could talk about this too.
Fun facts: In 1999 Michael Leunig was made a Australian Living Treasure (judged to be people who have made outstanding contributions to Australian society in any field of human endeavour)
In the past he was also invited to paint a Melbourne tram with his work:
This book was the perfect break for me from reading, it’s not often I just sit back and look at a coffee-table style book even though I enjoy them immensely when I do. My husband has now appropriated it (again) to finish flicking through it himself.
Book #262 of 2012