Ford Street, 2023
32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.95
“When the diggers came and construction began,
The animals had to pack and scram,
Leaving behind their woodland home,
Searching for a place of their own…”
These days there is seldom a news bulletin or a talk show that doesn’t mention the “housing crisis” and the need “to build more homes”, and so the rural environment is threatened by urban expansion in an unprecedented way. But what happens to those who already live in the fields and woodlands when their habitat is destroyed?
This is a seemingly light-hearted look at a serious subject as we follow the plight of Badger, Fox, Rabbit, Mouse and a band of other creatures as they desperately try to find somewhere in the city to live now that their own homes have disappeared to unstoppable development and urban sprawl. But there is no welcome for them in the city with its concrete towers and rough pavements, cars and pollution and the only place they can find and afford is underneath it all in the sewers. But they’re dirty and smelly and unfit for habitation until Mouse rallies them into working together to create something special, only to discover that having lost one environment, they are about to lose their new one as greedy smoothskin eyes gleam and gloat at the possibilities…
Often when students investigate the threats facing the fauna and flora of their environment, habitat loss is at the top of the list and we often hear of the vast amounts of land cleared daily throughout the world to service the needs of the human population but to many, this remains an abstract concept that is hard to grasp. But this clever story puts the problem into a perspective that even young minds can understand – particularly the underlying question of what happens to the animals that are displaced. Is their future condemned to being on the threatened species list at best, or extinction at worst? Is there a way that “the furries and the smoothskins” can unite and live in harmony?
Comprehensive teachers’ notes linked directly to the Australia Curriculum will help draw out the key themes of this book, which the author identifies as nature, empathy, kindness and acceptance, but they also show the importance of reading the words and the pictures, looking for cues and clues that enrich and enhance the author’s message and the story itself. One of those picture books that works on so many levels for a range of age groups.