Monday 6 October 2014

The Monster Who Ate Australia

The Monster Who Ate Australia by Michael Salmon (Ford Street Publishing)
HB RRP $19.95
PB RRP $12.95
ISBN 978-1925000542 (HB)
ISBN 978-1925000559 (PB)
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

We all know Michael Salmon. He’s the writer and illustrator whose books pop off the shelf for their quirky adventures and bold colourful cartoons. He’s an Australian favourite. And it was probably this book – The Monster Who Ate Australia – who cemented him in the world of children’s literature in Australia. First published in 1984, this award-winning classic is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

It is with good reason that this gorgeous book deserves a special release. And those children, who haven’t already discovered this book, will love it for just as many good reasons.  This is the story of a rather rambunctious but lovable dinosaur-like monster named Burra, who they say is an extremely rare Australian mammal called a boggabri.

Burra lives in a cave in Uluru and spends most of his day happily gnawing at rocks, at least until the tourists arrive by the busload. Burra finds the tourists far too noisy, keeping him awake late at night and waking him too early for his liking with their noisy car horns and engines. Burra tires of their behaviour quickly, and one day he sets off into the desert in search of a new home that is free of Burra. 

This takes Burra on a rather wild adventure through Australia. Burra stops at Perth, where he steals a cup of ‘bubbly’ (that makes him happy!) from the sailors and eats their greatest trophy – the America’s Cup. At his next stop in Adelaide, he chews the side off Festival Hall but decides it tastes terrible and the tourists there are still too noisy. So he leaves for Hobart where he finally finds something tasty – the farmers’ apple trees, but the farmers scare him away by pelting apples at him. And his gnawing misadventures continue right through Australia from swallowing too much dirty water in Melbourne’s Yarra River and taking a munch out of the National Gallery’s Blue Poles to eating a bit of the famous pineapple in Queensland and nosediving into a pack of musicians at the Sydney Opera House.

But his shenanigans land him in great trouble and Burra is captured in Sydney and taken to Taronga Park Zoo where he becomes the very thing he loathes – a tourist attraction. His rock-chomping jaws save the day and Burra chews through the bars and escapes, taking one last bite of the Sydney Harbour Bridge before deciding that there really is no place like home and makes his way back to Uluru.

This is a fun-loving story, bursting with Salmon’s delightfully playful cartoons and a story that not only will keep the kids engaged, but will help teach them about the geography of Australia and its national icons. A perfect combination for those thirsty young readers in schools. 

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