Sunday, 22 June 2014

Thoughts on a Children's Book

Every once in awhile I'll be in the library and will pick up a children's book.  I guess having worked with young children for 35 years it is a habit that is hard to break even though I am now comfortably and happily retired.

I especially like Australian books and that has to be solely for the illustrations.  Children's books have the most marvelous illustrations and I never get tired of looking at them.

The other day when I was in the library I picked up this charming book about the Kookaburra.  Unless you have woken to the sound of a gardenful of laughing kookaburras in the morning you cannot completely appreciate how funny it is.  They are a very social bird and love nothing more than to gather in trees as families with cousins howl in laughter over who on earth knows what.

There is always one, once the din subsides that then has to get the last word or may I say laugh in.  You will hear an amazing cacophony of sound for almost a entire minute or two and then it will be still. Dead still. You wait and then one more states a little sound of "ahahaha-he".  Then it is still again. 
Information about kookaburras on the inside cover.

I loved the illustration on the front of this book.  I also loved inside the cover where information is printed about the kookaburra. It states they are the largest of the kingfisher family and how they stay together as a family for up to 4 years.  There is other factual information as well.

The story and illustrations throughout the book are quite simple and only one or two sentences in large print on each page. I would think it would be appropriate for 4 to 7  years olds to either listen to or read themselves.  It has adjectives on each page ranging from easy (big, baby, ugly to more interesting ones: spiky, palm, flapping).

It would be a fairly quick book to read before bedtime and it has a bit of an ending that will make children wonder what happened to him as it says the people who raised him never saw him again but it is also happy in that he found his own family to live with "ever after".  Nothing scary here.

If I can find one criticism with the book it would have to be the environmental message it sends.  It pretty much tells children that if they find a baby bird, eyes unopened, no feathers that they can feed it special food with an eye dropper (doesn't say every two hours around the clock) and it will thrive.

Not only will it thrive but it will become your friend and live a happy life.  I know that unless a baby bird gets immediate specialist care from a bird carer or vet who can get it to a carer it will not live. 

I don't want children to go through their neighbourhood in the springtime looking for baby birds to raise on their own.  It will be an unhappy experience for both the child and the bird unless the family has specialist bird skills.

I like fantasy in books for children and believe fantasy is healthy for them and gives them a lot to talk about but I don't appreciate fantasy in situations that can also be realistic.  Most of us have found birds at one time or another but we did not raise them to adult hood when they fly off and have their own happy family.  I want nature books to be realistic for children.  Maybe it is only a story and doesn't matter, maybe it is the responsible thing to do to be realistic but not as much fun.

Food for thought I guess in what we expect in books for this age range.  However the illustrations are beautiful and very cute and I would love this little bird to live in my house. I imagine my cats and dogs would have other ideas though.


  1. It looks like a sweet book, but I agree with you about the message it sends about rescuing baby birds. I shudder to think of all the poor babies that succumb in shoe box nests. Maybe we could write our own ending and paste it over the published one! You have the most interesting animals and birds in Tasmania!

    1. I will have to look at other nature books for children and see what messages they send. Our animals are interesting. I love all of them but I must say I miss squirrels and raccoons. They are such mischievous little animals. I even miss skunks. Though not close up !

  2. I'm glad you loved the pictures in this book as much as I did. It's actually shortlisted for the CBC Awards this year.
    Other envirnomental books have had the WIRES phone number in the book or a message at the back. I believe this story was based on a true story and the teacher notes (available online) include info about wildlife carers groups.
    I was fascinated to find out the their laugh is actually a territorial sound!

  3. Yes, I have seen the WIRES phone number in other books. It is too bad it didn't say it was a true story. Yes it is a territorial sound. The book is very cute and like we both agree the illustrations are lovely.


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