Desert Lake: The Story of Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre, by Pamela Freeman and Liz Anelli

Far up north, clouds are gathering: thunderheads and rain clouds.
Rain falls.
Rivers fill and break their banks,
And water swirls and roars down the empty riverbeds towards the lake.

Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre – is a dry salt lake in the centre of Australia. But once roughly every ten years heavy rains to the north fill the lake with water, awakening frogs and shrimp. carrying fish down creek beds, giving new life to parched plants, and bringing birds, including pelicans and ducks, to the lake to breed, feed and flourish. When the lake starts to dry out again the birds and their new young fly away and the other life returns to dormancy waiting for the next flood.

Desert Lake: The Story of Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre is a beautiful non-fiction book which brings the changing lake to lif through the combination of well-written text and stunning mixed media illustrations. The narrative text is complemented on each spread by the inclusion of facts, presented in a different font so that readers can read the story and facts separately, if desired. The illustrations show the diversity of the lake’s inhabitants and the lake itself through contrasts between the ochres and browns of the dry, and the greens and blues of the wet.

Par of the Nature Storybook series, Desert Lake is excellent both as an educational tool and for prib=vate enjoyment.

Desert Lake: The Story of Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre, by Pamela Freeman & Liz Anelli
Walker Books, 2016
ISBN 9781921529436

Harold and Grace, by Sean E Avery

The storm rushed, and howled, and splashed, and blew at the tiny tree, the little pond and the lonely leaf.

When it finally stopped, the lonely leaf was safe.

When a single caterpillar egg and a single frog egg survive a storm, an unlikely friendship is formed.  When Harold the tadpole and  Grace the caterpillar hatch from their eggs, they meet and, in spite of their obvious differences, become best friends. In the pond, Harold is teased by the fish who see that he is not the same as them. In the tree, Grace is shunned by the other insects because she is not the same as them.  But they lend each other support.

Eventually, though, Harold gets busy in the pond and forgets about Grace for a while. When he returns to see her, she is not there. Instead, there is a cocoon. Distraught, he uses the cocoon as a pillow, until one day a butterfly emerges and the pair are, after a brief misunderstanding, reunited.

Harold and Grace is a warm, funny tribute to friendship and diversity, which also explores the life cycles of frogs and butterflies, paralleled with the ebbs and flows of friendships. The illustrations use black ink and digital colours, with a palette rich in greens and purples, in natural tones that reflect the outdoor setting of the story. The whimsy of the characters and their surrounds is delightful, and the design of the book, in a smallish square hard cover with a felted embellishment, is adorable.

A beautiful offering.

Harold and Grace, by Sean E. Avery
Fremantle Press, 2015
ISBN 9781925162295

Available from good bookstores and online.

Darcy Moon and the Deep-Fried Forgs, by Catherine Carvell

‘The night you were born,’ he said, ignoring my question, ‘there was a rare lunar eclipse. The planets were aligned.’ He lifted a webbed foot and waved it in the air as if the planets were hovering in front of him. ‘When the eclipse passed,’ he continued, ‘the first ray of moonlight hit your newborn eyes and a cosmic does of planetary magic passed to you.’
Darcy Moon has a few problems – the biggest ones being her embarrassing parents, whose funny smells and hairy armpits are stopping her fitting in with the cool crowd.So when the animals at the local swamp start speaking to her, she doesn’t want to know. She can’t help them – and if anyone knows she talks to frogs, she’ll become a laughing stock. But Jumpy the frog and Wizen, the Western Swamp Tortoise, are pretty persistent, and when Darcy realises why the local frogs are disappearing she realises she has to help.

Darcy Moon and the Deep-fried Frogs is a fun adventure with an important message about ecology and the environment. Darcy is a gutsy girl who must use her nous to help the animals, and get out of some scrapes, which she does with aplomb.

Suitable for primary school aged children, Darcy Moon and the Deep-fried Frogs is a great début novel from West Aussie Catherine Carvell.

Darcy Moon and the Deep-fried Frogs, by Catherine Carvell
Fremantle Press, 2014
ISBN 9781922089717

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Pros & Cons of Being a Frog, by Sue deGennaro

Finding the right animal wasn’t easy.
It was Camille who gave me the idea of being a frog.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog

The narrator of this whimsical picture book and his friend Camille are quite different. Camille is a numbers person – she loves them so much that sometimes she speaks only in numbers. The narrator is a little more creative and,w hen they meet, dresses in a cat costume. But being a cat is causing problems with a local dog, so Camille comes up with a solution, and helps the narrator to choose a new animal – the frog. This works fine until he asks Camille to be a frog, too.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog is a whimsical story of friendship and difference. Both Camille and her friend are a little odd – one wearing a costume every day, the other being obsessed by numbers. But each learns not just to accept the other’s difference, but to value it, because it is because of these differences that they complement each other.

The messages about uniqueness and about friendship are apparent, but the whimsy of the story is what drives it, making both laugh out loud funny and heartwarmingly touching. The illustrations, using collage, pencil and ink are similarly whimsical, with neither the practicality of the numbers or the creativity overwhelming – instead uniting to make a delightful whole. The cover, with its embossed numbers and image of the two characters considering the title, is perfect.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog, by Sue deGennaro
Scholastic, 2012
ISBN 978174283063

Available from good bookstores or online.

Lester and Clyde's Catastrophic Adventure, by James Reece

Two frog friends, Lester and Clyde, live together in a beautiful pond. Although they are very different – with Lester being mischievous, and Clyde wise – what ties them together is their friendship. They look out for each other.

When summer comes, the pair are faced with new perils – as their pond dries up in the summer heat, they have to avoid predators – birds and lizards, looking for a feed and, most frightening, a feral cat which stalks them.

The pair decide to take turns keeping watch, but one morning Lester wakes to find Clyde gone and footprints nearby. He worries that he’ll never see his old friend again.

This is the third picture book sharing the adventures of the loveable Lester and Clyde and the talents of their creator, James Reece. Reece’s rhyming verse is cute and the story has a delightful message, but it is the illustrations which make these books particularly special. The froggy features of the stars and the detials of their environment are delightful.

A tresure.

Lester and Clyde’s Catastrophic Adventure, by James Reece
Scholastic, 2003