“Unplugged!” is a special book. It is the first published work of the great Australian children’s author, the one and only Glenda Millard. I have been fortunate to meet Glenda and the publisher of “Unplugged!” Margaret Hamilton and get an insight into this book’s creation from the perspective of both of these amazing women. I was lucky to also get hold of an original “Unplugged!” illustration by Dee Huxley. Later, two of my best friends who appreciate good books fell in love with “Unplugged!” so much that they too ended up buying an original Dee Huxley illustration each. So the three of us now own a ‘family’ of fantastic “Unplugged!” artworks (see images in the Gallery).
The main delight of “Unplugged!” is its original story told with Glenda Millard’s signature wit, delightful juxtapositions and clever turn of phrase. On a beautiful summer day, courtesy of two family pets – a dog called Fritz and a yabby called Murray – an embarrassing incident happens to Grandma who is taking a bath in an outdoor tub in the garden.
Grandma attempts to remain dignified no matter what while circumstances seem to work against her taking her from bad to worse state of embarrassment…
The book’s illustrations are as delightful as its text. The story’s protagonists were inspired by real-life characters – Glenda Millard’s own grandparents and pets and herself as a child. She did not, however, have any influence over how the pictures should ultimately look like; she had not even met Dee Huxley prior to the book’s launch. Yet when Glenda finally saw the illustrations she had been greatly surprised, she said, by Dee’s vision, which aligned so closely with Glenda’s own visual memories of her childhood! When I mentioned owning the original illustration from the page below Glenda Millard exclaimed: “That’s my Grandpa and I on that couch!” and added that her grandparents’ house and the garden had the very ambiance that Dee Huxley captured in her illustrations. I find this ability of great artists to get inside the author’s head truly amazing!
In addition to entertaining, “Unplugged” celebrates the simple pleasures of countryside living. On a hot summer day Grandpa and Katie harvest honey from beehives, chewing on lumps of waxy honeycomb, Grandpa enjoys a small glass of parsnip wine and has a nap in the refreshingly cool cellar, Grandma takes bath in the garden beneath the plum tree, singing songs to cicadas’ accompaniment, while Fritz is in search of a quiet place for a nap. For afternoon tea all enjoy Grandma’s scones with freshly harvested honey… It reminds me of my own grandparents, their house, the smells in grandpa’s cellar and all sorts of summertime delights. Looking at the busy and rushed city life of mine I find it increasingly difficult to find space for appreciating life’s simple and small pleasures, for enjoying it all at a slower pace. Reading and re-rereading “Unplugged!” every now and again gives me a little bit of that space and an opportunity (no matter how brief) to slow down, smile and remember that life is not all about stressful jobs and endless commitments… This proves again that picture books aren’t only good for children and could and should be enjoyed by all, regardless of the age.
“Unplugged” is now out of print and hard to come by but is certainly worth a hunt. Check at your local library or buy a used copy (at the time of writing this post 2 books in ‘very good’ condition were listed on abebooks.com). Happy reading!