Blinky Bill is about as Australian as it gets, a tourist’s picture of Australia: koalas and the bush. My experiences of Blinky Bill so far were merely the cartoon movie and early nineties television series, which I absolutely loved. Yet when I was searching through my bookshelves the other day, I found an ancient edition of Dorothy Wall’s stories sitting on the shelf, a little dusty, the spine slowly peeling away from the covers, and decided it was criminal I hadn’t ever read the book.
The Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill, published in 1939, comprises all three Blinky Bill stories: Blinky Bill, Blinky Bill Grows Up and Blinky Bill and Nutsy. To be honest, it was hard to get into the book after my childhood filled with cartoon images of who I thought Blinky, Nutsy and Splodge were. The illustrations in the book are adorable, but not necessarily how I came to picture koala bear Blinky after being brainwashed by television. But the further I read into the book, the more I came to accept Blinky as Wall had envisioned him. The stories are so imaginative and at times a little sad (Wall does not try to shelter these koalas from the dangers of the real world!) and I found myself laughing at the mischief Blinky gets himself into in the depths of the Australian bush. I can’t recall a koala named Mrs Grunty in the television series, but she is one of my favourite characters in the book. I think everyone knows a Mrs Grunty.
Wall was actually born in New Zealand in 1894 and migrated to Australia in 1914, where she worked predominately as an illustrator. She wrote the first Blinky Bill book in 1933. Only three years after the publication of The Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill, she passed away back home in New Zealand in 1942.
This book is definitely one to read to children and it is refreshing to read a story which isn’t bogged down by trying to teach kids a moral lesson or how to behave. Blinky usually manages to get away with his mischievous, adventurous nature, and that just makes him all the more lovable as a character.
The Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill, Dorothy Wall
Angus & Robertson, 1939