Walker Books, 2020
32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99
Dawn, and in a line on a limb, Kookaburra and her family greet the rising sun with their distinctive call, harsh at times but more melodious than any alarm clock. After welcoming the daylight hours, they go their separate ways in search of food, using their keen eyesight to spot even the most elusive snack. But it is nesting season and after being presented with a delicious morsel by her lifelong mate, they go in search of a new tree hollow in which to lay their eggs. But despite looking at a lot of new real estate, they return to their old home even though they have to defend it and the surrounding territory from intruders. And as the shadows grow longer and dusk falls, once again there is a line on a limb and that familiar sound bids the world goodnight.
There is no more iconic sound of the Australian bush than the laugh of the kookaburra – even though it varies according to circumstance and season and is never actually directed at something amusing – and in this addition to the narrative non-fiction Nature Storybook series that opens the world of Australia’s fauna to young readers by telling the story of one creature and accompanying it with facts about the species in general, Saxby and Harricks have captured both the sound, sight and antics of this stunning bird perfectly.
Saxby, also the author of Big Red Kangaroo, Emu, Koala and Dingo (also illustrated by Harricks) brings her ability to create pictures with her words to create magic on the tongue, while Harricks has captured the colours and the contours of the bush in oils with her bold strokes and beautiful palette. We are blessed to live in a place where we see a range of Australian birds in their natural habitat every day but despite the magpie family’s loyalty, the brilliant colours of the crimson rosellas and the mad antics of the galahs and cockatoos, it is always the call of the kookaburra that brings the widest smile. While trees with hollows are becoming harder to find, particularly after the Black Summer bushfires, hopefully there will always be a home in the bush near us for them.