Big Sky, 2021
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
The little boat loves being towed along the frothy edge of the waves and bobbing in the rock pool. But one day he is left behind and for weeks he lies alone in the sand dunes. Then one day a potato chip packet is blown into him and he thinks he has found company at last. But a seagull declares the packet as rubbish, the wind picks it up and blows it into the sea and the little boat wonders if it is rubbish too. Over time it is joined by a takeaway cup and a plastic bag who add ‘litter’ and ‘waste’ to its vocabulary before they, too are blown into the sea. Gradually the little boat becomes surrounded by debris as it falls apart as abandoned as the things that surround it.
Until one day a little boy comes along…
Inspired by an early morning walk on the beach and the litter that was left on the foreshore after a community family event the evening before. the author simply wondered ‘why? ‘ and so this story of a forgotten toy grew as a focal point for young readers to think about what happens to the garbage that is left behind on the beach. There are no beach elves that come to clean it up so where does it end up? And what could be done to prevent it being there in the first place?
The issue of the amount of plastic, particularly, that ends up in our oceans and landfill is gaining greater awareness so this is a timely story that starts to build that awareness in young people and offers them a few tips as to what they can do with teachers’ notes (linked to the Australian Curriculum) available to assist this. With warmer weather coming and visits to the beach on the horizon, there is lots of scope for children to learn how small steps impact on the greater good (another timely lesson right now) and even if they can’t go on on a rubbish-collection walk there is plenty of scope to detail alternatives to plastics.
Stories like this with illustrations that cleverly bring even a potato chip packet to life and which have extra details which enrich and enhance the text (check out the fishing line around the seagull’s leg), are a powerful way to deliver important messages to our youngest readers so they can start their good habits early, learn that small things can lead to bigger things (positive or negative) within the realms of enjoyable entertainment.