Tuesday 2 July 2024

Sensational Australian Animals

Sensational Australian Animals by Stephanie Owen Reeder, illustrated by Cher Hart (CSIRO Publishing) HB RRP $29.99 ISBN 9781486316892

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Once again author and researcher Owen Reed has produced an outstanding non-fiction book which is a joy: it will reward a young reader aged 9+ years with many hours of reading about the fascinating world of native Australian animals.

The book begins with an introduction to how people use their senses to associate with Australia, such as the smell of koala pee raining down from a eucalyptus tree, the sounds of thousands of cicadas shrieking on a summer afternoon, or the feeling of a mosquito piercing one’s skin and sucking up blood. It is then divided into chapters – The eyes have it! Did you hear that? Follow your nose! That’s tasty! And What a Feeling!

Each chapter examines different Australian animals. In the section titled ‘Magnificent Marsupials’ for instance, there is an examination of various animals such as numbats, southern marsupial moles, quokkas, honey possums and wallabies, and how they use their sight to navigate their worlds. We learn, for example, that quokkas, also known as short-tailed wallabies, have full-colour vision that allows them to locate the leaves, bark and grass they eat. Honey possums, on the other hand, have large eyes positioned on the front of their faces so they can look both forwards and upwards.

This is a book that has so many fascinating facts, all fully researched, and presented in clear, detailed descriptions. There’s even a section titled ‘Tasty treats’ with a break-out page ‘Today’s Menu’ which lists edible foods such as common yabbies (freshwater crayfish), witchetty grubs, bogong moths, honeypot ants, green tree ants, and purple sea urchin with a description of what each of them tastes like.

The full-colour 140 illustrations here are like the text – eye-catching, and well-worth hours of investigating. There is a four-page glossary, and an animal index at the end of the book. Be intrigued, amazed, and astonished by what insects, birds, spiders, fish, and many other animals are capable of!

Dr Owen Reeder has won the NSW Premier’s History Award and the CBCA Book of the Year Award for information books. This is nature illustrator and graphic designer Hart’s first book. Hart has created scientific communication material for journals, exhibitions, and government.

This book is highly recommended.

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