REVIEW: Ella and the Ocean by Lian Tanner and illustrated by Jonathan Bentley

Published: 5th August 2019

Publisher: Allen & Unwin Australia

Pages: 32

Format: Hardback picture book (borrowed from the library)

RRP: $24.99

4/5 Stars

A very Australian story of drought and renewal, of family, of imagination and of the power of hope.

Ella lived in the red-dirt country
where the earth was as dry as old bones
and it hadn’t rained
for years
and years
and years.One night, Ella dreamt of the ocean…

A captivating picture book from the award-winning author of The Keepers and the CBCA Notable illustrator of Where is Bear?

Ella and the Ocean by Lian Tanner and Jonathan Bentley is a book that every Australian child needs to read. Ella and the Ocean is a beautiful and poignant picture book about dreams, hope, despair and family. It’s about not letting go, and how hope and dreams can make even the most desperate of the situation all that more bearable and hopeful.

Ella is a young girl growing up a drought-stricken farm in Australia who dreams of the ocean. Curious, she asks her Dad, Mum and brother Ben in turn about the ocean. Although each has seen it, it’s been so long, and the ground so dry that they each can’t really remember what it was like. When Ella dreams about the ocean a second time, her Grandma prompts the family into action and together they pack up for a holiday and visit the ocean.

Lian Tanner’s narrative is beautiful, naive and innocent. Told from the perspective of a young girl named Ella, Tanner takes us on a journey of dreams, hope, discovery and moral lifting holidays. It’s told through simple and easy to understand language, meaning children of any age can experience the book and take something from it. Using Ella’s parents and brother Ben’s tired and downtrodden responses, Tanner is able to showcase the need to look after one mental health wellbeing through the use of light humour. For children, these responses will be funny and silly, for older readers, they will showcase signs of weariness, exhaustion and desperation.

Jonathan Bentley’s illustration are something else in Ella and the Ocean. Bentley expertly contrasts two very different colour palette to reinforce Tanner’s narrative throughout this story. For the farm landscape, where work and life is hard, exhausting and never changing, Bently employs a predominately earthly and stagnant colour palette of reds, oranges and browns to show the decaying and drought-stricken landscape. This is used in direct contrast to Ella’s dreamscape double-page spreads, where Bentley uses vivid and swirling blues and primary colours, with sweeping lines making the illustration burst off the page into life.

All in all, Ella and the Ocean is a beautiful picture book.

Ella and the Ocean was notable listed for the CBCA’s Picture Book of the year 2020 Award.

To purchase a copy of Ella and the OCean, visit the following online retailers:

Allen & Unwin | Amazon AUS | Amazon USA | Angus & RobertsonBooktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks | QBD


To learn more about Lian Tanner, visit the following social media pages:



To learn more about Jonathan bentley, visit the following social media pages:

Jonathan Bentley website |  Instagram



One thought on “REVIEW: Ella and the Ocean by Lian Tanner and illustrated by Jonathan Bentley

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