Sarah Allen: Busy Beaks

Illustrated by the author

See the source image

Published by Affirm Press, South Melbourne, 2020

Over the past few months, I have had the unexpected joy of leaving seeds for three magpies that visit my backyard. Most mornings I find them foraging for food in the garden, and it is almost like they are waiting for the lady of the house to get up and notice them. When the magpies hear the click of the back door being opened, they wing their way to the balustrade and start singing. What a privilege it is to hear them and gain their trust in this new relationship.

In the early days, we kept our distance, but lately the magpies have been edging closer and closer. When they are so near, it is hard not to miss those long, sharp beaks. When they fly over my head or hop beside me as we wander down to the feeding dish together, I wonder about their connection to each other, how they manage to survive the elements and just what they are trying to communicate to me and each other.

All birds have beaks, but not all beaks are the same! Sarah Allen recently published a beautifully illustrated picture book about Australian birds and their beaks. Gentle rhyming text introduces the reader to something significant about that bird: cockatoos screech, magpies warble, swans bob for food, lorikeets gather in mobs, fairy wrens strut their beautiful tails, brolgas dance and leap.

Twenty-five Australian birds are illustrated, and their species named. At the back of the book, a small paragraph about each bird gives the reader more detail about their habits and habitats. The drawings are instantly recognizable and a helpful guide for anyone interested in doing a bit of bird spotting in their own backyard, at the beach, in forests, or water reserves. The endpapers are covered in bird nests…it is not clear which egg belongs to which bird, but if you are curious, there is nothing to stop you discovering that information for yourself. Silver spoons are highly overrated.

I can happily recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years and below is a long list of other picture books about birds. I have so many favourites, it was hard to know which ones to leave out!

Kookaburra Kookaburra
by Bridget Farmer

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell Illustrated by Patrick Benson

Windcatcher by Diane Jackson Hill Illustrated by Craig Smith

George Flies South by Simon James

Circle by Jeannie Baker

Nest by Jorey Hurley

A Busy Day for Birds
by Lucy Cousins

I Spy in the Sky by Edward Gibbs

Olga the Brolga by Rod Clement

That’s Not My Robin…
by Fiona Watt

Edwina the Emu
by Sheena Knowles
Illustrated by Rod Clement

Liarbird by Laura Bunting

Waddle Giggle Gargle!
by Pamela Allen

Birds by Carme Lemniscates