Colin Thompson's great love is illustration. He is a talented artist with a vivid imagination. It was pure chance that he realised that providing the words to books as well as the pictures gave him greater control and more satisfaction. This is good news for young readers who enjoy high-quality picture books. This charming example is typical of the author's work. It tells the story of a royal alchemist who lived a long time ago. An alchemist was a person who worked like a scientist with similar apparatus. Alchemists tried every way they could think of to produce gold from common materials. For a long time people thought this was possible. We now know it is not. They were usually hired by rich people who wanted to become even richer. In The Last Alchemist, the holder of the title of court alchemist belonged to Spinifex. He was a poor, lonely figure who did not trust his young assistant Arthur. Arthur told his master to look for real gold, not in a laboratory, but in nature. He brought back to the castle sunflowers, canaries and sunshine. This only made Spinifex angry, as he had been given a strict deadline by the king. As the country became poorer and its people more miserable and unhappy, Arthur tried to convince his increasingly desperate master that his pursuit of happiness through wealth was futile. Spinifex grew full of rage as he prepared for one last glorious attempt to succeed. He looted all the wealth he could find and set up a huge experiment designed to make him and his king rich beyond their wildest dreams. The sun rose and destroyed all the equipment and books Spinifex used to try to produce gold. As peace and happiness returned to the king and his kingdom, the moral of the tale became clear. Wealth does not bring happiness. We should all enjoy the richness of natural beauty all around us. Thompson's drawings are lively and engaging. He uses bright primary colours, pastel shades and detailed line drawings to create an imaginative world that draws readers in as they enjoy the story. Some of the illustrations will remind observant readers of the work of other artists, but the elements combine to produce a satisfying set of delightful images.