To My Country by Ben Lawson

Title: To My Country
Author: Ben Lawson
Published: December 2020
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Readership: Adult
Genre: Poetry
Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $29.99

I received a copy of To My Country from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

On January 10, Ben touched the hearts of Australians with the reading of his poem To My Country in response to the Australian bushfires. This gorgeous 4 colour book combines Ben’s heartfelt words with stunning illustrations by Bruce Whatley.

Ben Lawson was preparing for another Christmas away from home when the Black Summer bushfires began to burn their way across Australia’s eastern coast. As the bushfires continued to rage into the new year on an unprecedented scale, Ben, feeling angry, helpless and broken-hearted as he watched the devastation from across the ocean, sat down and put his feelings into words. To My Country is an ode to the endurance of the Australian spirit and the shared love of our country.

In the true Aussie spirit, Ben and Allen & Unwin will be donating proceeds of To My Country to The Koala Hospital.

It feels like a lifetime ago that here in Australia we experienced one of the worst bushfire seasons on record – but the reality is, it was less than 12 months ago. (A lot has happened since then!) But at the time, there was huge domestic and international support for the communities, fire crews and animals affected by the bushfires. Australian actor, Ben Lawson, was one of the many Australians living away from home at the time and he penned this poem which he shared on Instagram at the time.

Fast forward a few months and Allen and Unwin have published his poem in a beautiful hardback book illustrated by Bruce Whatley. It’s a gorgeous book that has had a lot of of love and care put into its design, symbolic of Lawson’s message in his poem.

Even if you haven’t watched Lawson read this aloud, there’s a distinct feeling you get reading the words on paper. He accurately encapsulates what it means to be Australian (especially one overseas) and how the every day things about our country are the things we miss the most when we’re away. The feeling of helplessness in the face of the bushfires is also strong, as is the endurance of those who fight those fires (and our admiration for them).

It’s not often that a book will make me tear up, but To My Country made me think of my home and my connection to it.

Coupled with Bruce Whatley’s beautiful illustrative style – in this book designed using Procreate on an iPad – the words and pictures tell a story of the Australian spirit even during one of the most difficult fire seasons yet. Each

To My Country is a gorgeous book that would make a great gift for anyone who  loves poetry or beautiful books to display. It would also be lovely for anyone who finds themselves overseas and far from their home in Australia, too.

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