Sally Morgan: The River

Illustrated by Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr

Published by Magabala Books, WA, 2021

Sally Morgan is a descendant of the Palyku people from the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr is an award-winning artist who has collaborated with Sally on a previous picture book, Little Bird’s Day. Johnny, a Yolŋu man, lives in East Arnhem Land with other members of the Ganalbingu clan, and strives to use painting, song, and dance as mediums for others to learn more about Aboriginal culture.

In this picture book, we are invited to wander along the riverbank and use our eyes to look and our ears to listen as we encounter the animals living there. We see green ants crawling, goannas running, turtles peeping, kangaroos jumping and snakes sliding. We hear frogs croaking, fish splashing, emus calling, and crocodiles chomping. The rhythm of the text reminds me of Bill Martin and Eric Carle’s picture book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?  In a similar way, the repetition of the questions and the answering prose in The River makes this an easy story to remember and read, even for the very young.

The illustrations use a limited colour palette of cerulean blue, dusty browns, and muted oranges and reds, giving the reader a sense of being under the wide-open Australian sky and standing near the muddy riverbank, watching and listening to the sights and sounds of that unique environment.

The River  is a wonderful introduction to Australian wildlife and an invitation for young readers to use their eyes and ears when they are immersed in their own neighbourhoods, backyards, and parkland environments. There are sights and sounds all around us, birds calling, crickets chirping, owls hooting, kookaburras laughing, and magpies singing. So, take a moment today, go outside and look and listen!

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 3-6 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which focus on Australian wildlife:

Australian Baby Animals
by Frane Lessac

My Big Book of Australian Animals
by Roger Priddy

An A to Z Story of Australian Animals
by Sally Morgan
Illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft

A is for Australian Animals
by Frane Lessac

A – Z of Australian Animals by Jennifer Cossins

An Australian ABC of Animals by Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Bird’s Day
by Sally Morgan
Illustrated by Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr

Hello, Australia!
by Megan McKean

Rod Campbell’s Aussie Animals by Rod Campbell

Koalas eat gum leaves.
by Laura & Philip Bunting

Emu by Claire Saxby
Illustrated by Graham Byrne

Kookaburras love to laugh.
by Laura & Philip Bunting

Dingo by Claire Saxby Illustrated by Tannya Harricks

Edwina the Emu
by Sheena Knowles
Illustrated by Rod Clement

Olga the Brolga by Rod Clement

Possum Magic by Mem Fox Illustrated by Julie Vivas

Diary of a Wombat
by Jackie French
Illustrated by Bruce Whatley

Pouch! by David Ezra Stein

Miss Lily’s Fabulous Pink Feather Boa by Margaret Wild Illustrated by Kerry Argent

Bilby by Edel Wignell
Illustrated by Mark Jackson

Hop Up! Wriggle Over!
by Elizabeth Honey

When We Go Walkabout by Rhoda & Alfred Lalara

Can You Find Me?
by Gordon Winch
Illustrated by
Patrick Shirvington

Wombat Stew
by Marcia K. Vaughan Illustrated by Pamela Lofts

Snuggle Pot and Cuddlepie
by May Gibbs

The Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall

One Potoroo by Penny Jaye Illustrated by Alicia Rogerson

Sophie Blackall: If You Come to Earth

Illustrated by the author

Published by Chronicle Books, California, 2021

This is a wonderful picture book about our unique blue planet, I think everyone should read it, whether you are young or old. Within its pages, you will discover all the important things you need to know about our planet earth: the people who live in it, the animals that roam the skies, plains and seas, the homes we inhabit, the way we travel, the weather around us, the work we do, what we think, how we communicate, the ways we can love and hurt each other, and how we help one another.

It’s written as a handy guidebook for any curious and adventurous visitor from Outer Space that happens to stop by on its way elsewhere. The invitation comes from Quinn, a young boy lying on his bed who is thinking about the best way to describe the world he lives in, to someone who might not know.

The illustrations are breath-taking; my favourite double-page spread shows a large bird gracefully airborne, the image made up of a myriad of smaller birds within its shape. You can see a penguin, an owl, a flamingo, a puffin and a pigeon, just to name a few.

At the very end of this picture book, Sophie Blackall explains how the idea for it blossomed over many years, while she was travelling in different countries working for Save the Children, speaking to thousands of children and wishing she had a book just like this one to share with them.

The character of Quinn is based on a real boy, who said to Sophie that most likely visitors from another planet should be given mashed potato as a snack, because who knows if aliens have teeth? Very sensible.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 3-100 years, and below are more suggestions for books which look at our unique blue planet and explore the wonders within it:

Lots: The Diversity of Life on Earth by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Emily Sutton

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers

This Small Blue Dot
by Zeno Sworder

Only a Tree knows how to be a tree by Mary Murphy

The Astronaut’s Cat
by Tohby Riddle

Listen by Holly M. McGhee Illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre

How Did I Get Here?
by Philip Bunting

Your Planet Needs You!
by Philip Bunting

All Sorts by Pippa Goodhart Illustrated by Emily Rand

The Earth Book by Todd Parr

Hike by Pete Oswald

Small World by Ishta Mercurio Illustrated by Jen Corace

My Friend Earth
by Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrated by Francesca Senna

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel

Hello World by Michael Foreman

Book of Numbers by Oliver Jeffers

Book of Animals by Oliver Jeffers

We Go Way Back
by Ishta Ben-Barack
Illustrated by Philip Bunting

A Song of Gladness
by Michael Morpurgo Illustrated by Emily Gravett

Helen Milroy: Backyard Bugs

Illustrated by the author

Published by Fremantle Press, WA, 2021

Helen Milroy is a First Nations artist and illustrator, born in Perth and a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Helen has dedicated this picture book to her brother David, in remembrance of all those times when they were children, finding bugs together in the wide outdoors.

I don’t remember looking for insects and bugs in my childhood, but I do remember being stung by bees many times and my mother using toothpaste to soothe the painful wound. We saw lots of bull ants in the red soil of my grandfather’s farm in Monbulk and heavy, iridescent beetles winging their way to shade under the chestnut trees.

When I am out in the garden today, I’m happy to find a ladybug. They are feather light, small and delicate, unique in colour and the number of dots they carry on their backs. Sometimes I see praying mantises too, swaying hypnotically, until they pounce, faster than you can imagine, upon an unsuspecting fly. Some spider webs are engineering marvels, and make you think of strands of pearls on dewy mornings.

This picture book is a wonderful introduction to the world of insects and bugs for very young children. You could walk out the back door and discover all of them in your backyard. Ants marching, dragonflies flitting, worms wriggling, spiders hanging, snails slipping and sliding, crickets chirping and ladybirds landing upon your sleeve. Each insect has its own double page spread, simple rhyme, and is illustrated using bright and vibrant colours nestled within stunning indigenous designs.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which feature insects and bugs:

Some Bugs by Angela DiTerlizzi Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

Bugs Everywhere by Lily Murray Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup

Bug Bear by Patricia Hegarty Illustrated by Carmen Saldana

Peep Inside Bug Homes
by Anna Milbourne
Illustrated by Simona Dimitri

Beehive by Jorey Hurley

The Spider and the Fly
by Mary Botham Howitt
Illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi

Caterpillar and Bean
by Martin Jenkins
Illustrated by Hannah Tolson

Flutter by, Butterfly
by Petr Horacek

I Love Bugs by Emma Dodd

What the Ladybird Heard
by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Lydia Monks

Superworm by Julia Donaldson Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

The Woolly Bear Caterpillar
by Julian Donaldson
Illustrated by Yuval Zommer

A Butterfly is Patient
by Dianna Hutts Aston
Illustrated by Sylvia Long

Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni

Be Nice to Spiders
by Margaret Bloy Graham

Ten Little Caterpillars
by Bill Martin Jr.
Illustrated by Lois Ehlert

Caterpillar Butterfly
by Vivian French
Illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Yucky Worms by Vivian French Illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg

Arabella Miller’s Tiny Caterpillar
by Clare Jarrett

Alpha Bugs by David A. Carter

How Many Bugs in a Box?
by David A. Carter

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle

The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle

The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle

The Very Clumsy Click Beetle
by Eric Carle

The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle

Alison Binks: 9 things to remember (and one to forget)

Illustrated by the author

Published by Berbay Publishing, Kew East, Victoria, 2021

In the busyness of life, we should be mindful of all those things that are easy to overlook and take for granted, to be still for a moment and think about the small but mighty truths that surround us in our shared world.

In this picture book, we are urged to raise our levels of consciousness and be aware of the complex and connected wonders of life. Whittled down to nine things, we are taken on a slow moving and thoughtful journey to familiar places to look again and see the extraordinary in the ordinary.

If you sleep outside remember that birds wake up very early to sing. Except for the big, swooping kind who’ve been hunting all night. They are just going to sleep.

Remember to watch a pelican as it flies low to the water, never touching the silky waves. Remember to think of the moon pulling the tides in and out as you jump the frothy surf. Remember that there are frogs living deep in the ground waiting patiently for rain even when the ground is hard and dry. Remember that trees can live for more years than we can and be so wide that it takes many hands to reach all the way around them. Remember that the night-time stars can help travellers find their way home.

And the one thing to forget? Your shoes of course, because we all need to take them off sometimes and revel in the feeling of the good green grass beneath our feet.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 3-6 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which encourage us to stop, think and be mindful about the wonderful natural world around us:

Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies Illustrated by Mark Hearld

Bee by Britta Teckentrup

The Big Alfie Out of Doors Storybook by Shirley Hughes

A Butterfly is Patient
by Dianna Hutts Aston
Illustrated by Sylvia Long

My Country by Dorothea Mackellar Illustrated by Andrew McLean

Maisy’s Nature Walk
by Lucy Cousins

Caterpillar Butterfly
by Vivian French
Illustrated by Charlotte Voake

Grandpa’s Gift by Fiona Lumbers

We Are the Gardeners
by Joanna Gaines and kids
Illustrated by Julianna Swaney

Today We Have No Plans
by Jane Godwin
Illustrated by Anna Walker

In The Park by Clare Beaton

The Rainy Day by Anne Milbourne Illustrated by Sarah Gill

Here and Now by Julia Denos Illustrated by E.B. Goodale

Now by Antoinette Portis

Life by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

Quiet by Tomi dePaola

Perfect by Danny Parker
Illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Outside In by Deborah Underwood Illustrated by Cindy Derby

Slow Down, World by Tai Snaith

When the Sakura Bloom
by Narisa Togo