As we watch the exhibition around us from the Reading Area, a dad and his young child discuss their discovery of Shaun Tan—thanks to the Fantastic Worlds exhibition. 

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The young girl proudly tells the knowledgeable staff that ‘they never used to come here, but now they do all the time, because of all the stories…’ Her dad marvels over Shaun Tan being a local and laughs as he talks about Leigh Hobbs’ Mr Chicken character. 

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The young boy next to us won’t leave Anna Walker’s new installation for the space, refusing to move on because he ‘just loves it so much’. We take it all in, knowing that kids’ excitement about literature is something special. 

The Fantastic Worlds exhibition celebrates and explores the fantastic and imaginary characters and worlds of selected Australian picture books, featuring work from some of our favourite storytellers, authors and illustrators Leigh Hobbs, Isobel Knowles, Alison Lester, Tai Snaith, Shaun Tan and Anna Walker. The exhibition celebrates both finished artworks and examples of creative processes involved in the creation of picture books.

Designed with children and families in mind, audience participation is key to Fantastic Worlds. Creators have designed installations specifically for the space, like Anna Walker’s piece on Florette and Mr Huff that the boy couldn’t walk away from, and Story-Go-Round, an interactive installation by Cat Rabbit and Isobel Knowles.

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Hours could be spent exploring the intricacies of Elise Hurst’s work, whose book Girl on Wire will be released on Story Box Library later this year, or marvelling at the creative genius of Shaun Tan. We watched kids absorbed in the world of Too Much for Turtle, with an incredible set of Cat Rabbit and Isobel Knowles’ felt creations, and saw children and adults alike amazed by the talent of Tai Snaith.

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Thanks to the ongoing popularity of the exhibition, Fantastic Worlds has been extended until Sunday July 14. Why not spend the last weekend of the school holidays exploring the wonderful world of children’s books?

Fantastic Worlds is running as a free exhibition at the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick. Find out more about the exhibition by visiting the Moreland City Council website and share your experience on social by tagging the Gallery, using #StorytimeAnytime and crediting the artist you feature.