The Spotty Dotty Lady, by Josie Boyle
Posted by Lisa Hill on January 11, 2014
Years ago, one of my son’s favourite books was one about a man who lived in a drab suburban street where there was no sense of community. I can’t remember its name, but I remember the story well: one day this man took it into his head to decorate in house in a strikingly original way. Before long the neighbours were all friends, and the street was transformed into a riot of colour. Well, The Spotty Dotty Lady is in the same tradition, brought beautifully to life for the 21st century by the stunning artwork of Fern Martins.
The Spotty Dotty lady, who at the beginning of the story has no name, is a lonely woman ‘whose only friends were the pretty flowers in her garden’. One day she discovers a new plant that has mysteriously arrived in this garden, and she nurtures the bud until it blooms into a spotty dotty flower. When more flowers bloom, she paints her old weatherboard house with dots, and before long the neighbours are outside wanting her to paint their tea cups. They christen her with her new name and her loneliness vanishes when she throws a party and the street is filled with music and dance. The book ends with a wise old owl that must have dropped the seed flying away over a neighbourhood that is ‘the happiest street in the whole town’.
It is a simple story that celebrates the way that gardens can bring people together. It also encourages young readers to be themselves, and to enjoy odd or eccentric things if they like.
The illustrations are just gorgeous. The dots, of course, reference Aboriginal dot painting, but the characters are multi-ethnic, and the setting is urban. I particularly like the realism of the womanly shape of the spotty dotty lady, and I love the retro feel of the canisters and the radio in her kitchen. I think art teachers would love the inspiration this book offers for decorating all kinds of things – the spotty dotty lady even has spots on her teeth!
Like all good books by indigenous artists and authors, The Spotty Dotty Lady includes information about the indigenous heritage of Josie Boyle and Fern Martins, and I recommend the use of an Aboriginal Australia Wall Map to locate their country when introducing the book. (I have mine on permanent display). This quick and simple act of recognition is a powerful way to remind students of the diversity and longevity of Aboriginal culture and its storytelling heritage, and the cumulative effect of reading stories from all over Australia enriches their pride in our country as preeminent in the field of children’s literature.
About the author and illustrator (from the Magabala website):
Josie Wowolla Boyle is a Wonghi woman who was born in the desert of Western Australia. She is an acclaimed storyteller, singer and artist who has been enchanting children of all ages since the 1980s. Josie performs in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. She has made a number of recordings, worked as an artist in residence and featured on ABC’s 5 Nations’ Dreaming stories. She is also a regular presenter in literature and music festivals across WA. In 2012, Josie published her first children’s book, Bubbay: A Christmas Adventure with Magabala Books. (Click the link to see my review).
Fern Martins is an Ngarabul woman from New South Wales. She launched her career at the age of 19 with a one-woman sculptural exhibition and has developed her career as a sculptor, printmaker and artist. In 1988, together with other young Aboriginal urban artists, Fern started Boomalli, the Sydney Aboriginal Artists Cooperative. She has exhibited at the National Gallery and has lectured at the University of Adelaide.
The Spotty Dotty Lady would be a great book to use as a catalyst for ‘getting to know you’ activities at the start of the year.
Author: Josie Boyle
Title: The Spotty Dotty Lady
Illsutrator: Fern Martins
Publisher: Magabala Books, 2014
This entry was posted on January 11, 2014 at 5:58 pm and is filed under Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Indigenous Teaching Resources, Recommended books, School Library stuff. Tagged: Fern Martins, Josie Boyle, The Spotty Dotty Lady. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.