Children’s Book Review: Review: Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination

Jørn Utzon is a boy who sees the world through a very specific lens. Obsessed with building, creating and thinking outside the box, this is the story of how he harnesses both his own ideas and his resilience in ways that don’t always make sense to others.

He even collected ideas from his orange peels at breakfast!

It’s also the story of how he finally entered and won a competition to design and build our iconic Sydney Opera House.

A quote from the adult Jørn Utzon opens the story, and it applies equally to his unique Opera House design and the warmth and inspiration of this picture book:

The architect’s gift to society is to bring joy to people from the environment they create.

by John Utzon Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination it is written with the wonderful melodious cadence of repeated phrases, coupled with the anticipation of ‘expected’ surprises through language. Writer Coral Vass takes us easily and intelligently from Jørn’s house from youth to adulthood with an elegant economy of words, deftly explaining all the while how their creativity is nurtured and grows.

We see so many ways that young Jørn could get frustrated and give up, but he obviously isn’t and doesn’t (at least in the long run!). Other people’s opinions about his work aren’t always kind, but it seems that Jørn is able to believe in himself and his dreams enough to follow through with his ideas, regardless of what others think, which may be a life lesson for all of us.

Nicky Johnston’s pencil illustrations are beautiful as always, divinely expressive and perfect for this work. The cover gives us a clear indication of what’s inside, with its hand-drawn lettering and young Jørn happily clutching a compass, pencil, and ruler. The front endpapers with their torn images represent orange peels, shapes, buildings, flowers, shells and patterns that ultimately contribute to the building design we know and love. My favorite illustration is Jørn raising his fist when he finally creates his masterpiece. It is pure joy.

The back endpapers contain a beautifully penciled timeline of Utzon’s life, providing useful information for school projects and research. And of course provide the impetus to delve into this interesting and colorful life.

A wonderful true story. Highly recommended.

Title: Jørn’s Magnificent Imagination
Author: coral glass
Illustrator: nickyjohnston
Editor: ME, $24.99
Publication date: October 2022
Format: Hard-cover
ISBN: 9781922539144
By ages: 4 – 8
Write: Photo album

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