Wednesday, 27 March 2013
Celebrate Easter with a Bilby!
Peta Jinnath Andersen is an Online Consultant for Walker Books Australia. Her absolute, forever-and-ever favourite children's books are Guess How Much I Love You, A Bit Lost, Howl's Moving Castle, A Wrinkle in Time, A Monster Calls, and Winnie-the-Pooh.
With Easter fast approaching, our thoughts are rapidly turning to chocolate - chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, and, of course, chocolate bilbies! They've been associated with Easter in Australia for a long time, though their popularity really began in the nineties.
For those of us who want a little less sugar this Easter, bilbies are still a lovely way to celebrate.
In Bilby Secrets, one of the books in our non-fiction Nature Storybooks series, author Edel Wignell and illustrator Mark Jackson explore the journey a bilby takes from birth through adulthood. It's a marvellous example of a non-fiction picture book which teaches through story.
A beautiful narrative non-fiction book which follows the life of a bilby, an Australian marsupial. The story depicts a young bilby's birth, habitat, behaviour and diet. When Baby Bilby is born, he's as long as your little toe. He crawls into his mother's warm pouch, where he feeds and grows. Baby Bilby is soon ready to leave the safety of the burrow. He follows his mother closely, sniffs the night air, and hops into the moonlight for his first desert adventure.
Rather than providing readers with a textbook-like list of dry facts, Bilby Secrets introduces a bilby's habits and survival secrets through story; a short factual explanation of why Baby Bilby behaves as he does adds depth to the story, in the same way understanding character motivations add depth to a novel. And facts are presented in easy to relate to ways - "When Baby Bilby is born, he's as long as your little toe". Whenever I read that line to my son, he looks at his little toe in wonder, trying to imagine a baby that small. Illustrations enhance the story, while also adding a layer of factual detail - what a bilby burrow looks like, the sort of environment a bilby lives in, and more.
One of the things I love about Bilby Secrets and narrative non-fiction picture books in general is how they open up a world of discussion - the fact that a baby bilby is the size of a little toe easily segues to a chat about the size of other baby animals. Are baby kangaroos that small? Are piglets that small? (Yes and no respectively; marsupial babies are little-toe size while placental or eutherian babies are not.) And that discussion leads to another, about marsupials, which may lead to another about mammals and so on and so forth. It's a kind of guided learning, without pressure, that's suited to children of all ages - even one year olds can explore the idea of a bilby with a book such as this, especially when cuddled up with a loved one.
Looking for more narrative non-fiction? Take a look at the rest of our Nature Storybook series, and keep an eye out for Big Red Kangaroo, out later this year.
Credits: Text © 2011 Edel Wignell, Illustrations © 2011 Mark Jackson. All rights reserved.