Book Review: Arlo`s Treasure warms hearts around Australia

By Darren McErlain

Remember your days at Primary school? You couldn`t control your excitement when you knew it was Library day! If you couldn`t find your library bag with the drawstrings that your Aunty made with your initials, it was okay because – it`s Library Day! The good old humble pillowcase always stepped up to the mark.  

The school librarian would showcase some books and read you the flavour of the week. You would then secretly scoot up the front to try and borrow the book, before that other kid! Don`t worry, Mrs Llewellyn was always fair about it!

Now you can re-live that experience and feel the glossy cover of a brand new book in your hands, and smell the freshly printed pages under your nose.  Arlo`s Treasure written and illustrated by children`s author Anthony Zarb is creating a storm of interest online, in classrooms and homes around Australia.

This book reaches out to everyone!  Flashback to those old family sitcoms in the 80`s and 90`s that allowed each family member to connect with a character. Arlo and his family does exactly that.  Read about the trials and tribulations of moles Arlo and Matilda, and their pups Magnus, Maisy and Cinders. There is a moral to the story for both the kids and the grown-ups, which makes this picture book a very well-thought out text for all schools and home settings.

I have read this book to my own Year 3 students and it creates a broad platform for discussions about decision-making, family values, materialism, relationships and togetherness. I have even incorporated the book into our `Friendly faces, friendly voices, friendly classroom` mantra. Arlo`s Treasure creates a feel-good context in the classroom when analysing this book for English or Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE).

I have taught as a Primary teacher and read to children for nearly 20 years. The amazing student reaction from this book in comparison to the others on the market, is not just about value for money, but a true literary experience with traditional family values. All kids should have access to this book.

The author Anthony Zarb uses a personal tone that connects with a young audience and all words have been carefully chosen. It has been written to be read aloud in the classroom, small reading groups or for a personal reflection.

          Darren McErlain reading Arlo`s Treasure.

The story talks to everyone differently and it is polysemic with many meanings. Arlo`s Treasure teaches adults to get out of their comfort zone and to go `fossicking and digging in a direction…never fossicked or dug before.` Life presents us with the gift of going forward in age, yet we are confronted with little time or opportunity to be thankful  for what we have. It shouldn`t just be Christmas or Thanksgiving that we can stop and be grateful for our relationships, it should be ALL the time. Arlo the mole teaches us this value through example in a fictional story, and in the context of real-life.

The format used by Anthony Zarb goes `outside the square` of traditional fables. Each scene is set with some beautiful adjectives and descriptors that immerse you into a different world.  Anthony`s great sense of humour can be found in parts of the story, with many inferred jokes for the grown-ups! There are no spoilers and I encourage you to grab a copy to find out for yourself.

The strength of the relationship between Arlo and Matilda is demonstrated using language to convey the communication of love. Warmth extends from the pages and is guaranteed to fill any room with empathy towards others. The illustrations by Anthony Zarb are breathtaking and use different media to set the mood, and help the audience develop a bond with the characters. The word treasure is synonymous with the material world we live in and the intangible things that sometimes get taken for granted.

To ensure there are no spoilers, a dramatic scene is set when Arlo finds a treasure. The suspense for a classroom of kids or your own children will engage them in a world of warmth and affection. Please be warned that you may ignore thirst and hunger and delay another visit to the facilities, just to get to the end of the scene. You will be on the edge of your seat and you may forget you are actually sitting on one! I forgot where I was at one point, and realised there were 28 faces waiting for the next part. Arlo`s decision-making and determination to solve problems creates lessons for everyone, in all stages of their lives.

This book is for everyone. Purchase a book for your children, your nieces and nephews, your child`s teacher, the neighbours or for a real treasure in the world, we call - you. Find that old school library bag and order your copy today.

Arlo`s Treasure - Written and Illustrated by Anthony Zarb. Published by Rajan Publishing. Purchase online for only $16.95 plus postage. Click on the link below.