Reviewed by Kathryn Duncan
Excited about spending a week with their Aunt Hettie, Alice and Poppy discover their Aunt has special plans for them and they are not what the girls expected. Their week long holiday turns into an adventure as the girls wade through mud searching for the elusive swap monster for Aunt Hettie’s latest documentary.
Alice and Poppy do not share their aunt’s enthusiasm and in an effort to convince her to let them have a fun day in Sparkle Bay, they devise a plan and bring the swamp to her. As developers move in to make room for a monster shopping centre it seems that the swamp monster’s only habitat will be gone forever, and the swamp monster with it.
As Aunt Hettie shows the girls photos of the swamp monster as a baby, Alice realises there is still a chance to save the swamp monster and the development is stopped.
Conservation is an important issue and one that children eagerly embrace. The Swamp Monster uses the contrast between development and conservation as the conflict in this story and it is the children who find a way to overcome this conflict. The story has a delightfully humorous thread running through it and whilst conservation and preserving habitats is the theme of the story, it is not forced on to the reader. Jill McDougall presents conservation in a subtle way by having Poppy and Alice explore the swamp environment and make the association between the photos of a baby swamp monster and the swamp water they collected as part of their “plan”.
Annie White’s illustrations compliment the humour in the text and capture the expressions and the emotions of the characters.
Era Publications puts The Swamp Monster at a year 4 reading level, however I gave it to a year 2 reader who understood the theme and read the book independently. This is an enjoyable book and I liked the way humour is used to highlight the conservation theme through a story, as well as having the children solve the problem. The Swamp Monster is suitable for independent readers and would be a wonderful stocking filler for Christmas or as part of a school library
The Swamp Monster is available from Era Publications (www.erapublications.com), into schools and through selected bookstores
The Swamp Monster, by Jill McDougall
Era Publications, 2007
PB rrp $7.50