Thursday 12 May 2022

Song of the White Ibis

Song of the White Ibis by Phillip Gwynne and Liz Anellie (Puffin Books) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9781760897949

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

In this picture book, told from the point of view of an ibis, there is a recurring phrase: ‘Call me Bin Chicken. Call me Tip Turkey. Call me Picnic Pirate’ which is interesting as the dedication from Gwynne to his son Gabriel reads ‘I saw a bin chicken; you saw an ibis’. Thus, the book would appear to be inspired by this interchange between father and son.

This is a tale from the point of view of an Australian White Ibis, related to the Sacred Ibis of Egypt, which is endemic to all states in Australia. It tells how the bird aerates the soil for farmers, and eats locusts when there are plagues, as well as crayfish and mussels, but which was forced from the wetlands when people built their dams, roads, and houses. So now, adaptable, it is to be found in the city where it is forced to feed from bins (hence the recurring phrase).

Anellie’s illustrations are eye-catching and attractive with lots of details for the reader to search for as they take one from the natural into the settled world. The recurring refrain gives a strong sense of rhythm, making the text ideal for reading aloud.

The book finishes with the sage sentence, spoken by the ibis narrator: ‘…if I could whisper some advice: Renew. Recycle. And replenish.’ The final page, showing people holding up posters which read, ‘One day we might all be bin chickens.’ 

 Song of the White Ibis would be of most interest to readers aged 5 years and older.

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