Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Australian Animal Atlas

The Australian Animal Atlas written by Leonard Cronin and illustrated by Marion Westmacott (Allen and Unwin)  HB RRP $29.99 ISBN 9781760294144

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

Where, in Australia, might you find a red-headed honeyeater? What’s the wingspan of a gum moth?  Is there such a thing as a legless lizard? This 48-page reference book is jam-packed with information on 176 species of Australian animals.

The information is separated into habitats, with a selection of 16 animals per spread. The list of habitats is quite extensive and impressive: Deserts, Mangroves, Mallee and Acacia Scrublands, Waterways, Forests and Woodlands, Seashore, Rainforests, Heathlands, Tropical Wetlands, Alpine and Urban. Each habitat is introduced with 1–2 paragraphs describing its unique features, climate conditions and importance to the ecosystem. Each is accompanied with a small map of Australia, colour-coded to show the locations of that habitat. 

Each section of the book comprises four pages. The first double page spread (which opens with the habitat information) includes a large look-and-find illustration. The margins feature small pictures of 16 animals that are hiding in the main picture. Each of these animals is described in further detail on the double page spread that follows. The font is on the small size, as a result, but the writing is great – Cronin has focused on lesser known facts about each animal and perfectly summarised these with an entertaining caption beneath each species name. For example, the caption for the spotted cuscus is ‘smelly chest’, and the paragraph beneath explains how smelly oil from the male’s chest is rubbed onto tree branches to mark out a territory.

The illustrations by botanical artist, Marion Westmacott, are in full-colour and look extremely realistic – some almost photographic in quality! The endpapers feature a lovely trail of animals, first wandering into the book and later wandering out. The pages of the book are glossy and white throughout, which really helps lift the illustrations off the paper and bring the detail to life.

The book will appeal to kids who love Australian wildlife, particularly those aged between 6 and 12. It would be a great addition to the classroom shelf, especially beside existing collaborations by the same author and illustrator.


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