Platypus Deep, by Jill Morris

Reviewed by Alison Miles

Having recently met the author, and having seen much of her work collected together, the abiding regard she holds for Australia’s native wildlife became vividly apparent. Along with many talented artists, Jill has brought the bush to young readers with such characters as golden wombats, fig parrots, crocodiles, geckos and platypuses. In this she could be compared favourably with another Queenslander, Narelle Oliver.

Platypus Deep follows Orni the platypus as he searches for a deeper home. It is this search that shows both platypus and reader how important the creek system has been to many animals over millions of years.

Orni’s journey visits the familiar imagery of Jill’s books – native animals facing nature while living in a world dominated by humans. The author lives in Maleny where non-fictional platypuses have recently experienced the disruption of human intervention.

A reading of this lyrical narrative suggests a quiet creek setting with just the trickle of a waterfall and FLIP FLOP of Orni’s flippers to rustle the peace. A carefully measured repetition of sounds and the appearance of echidna hunting for ants leads to a beautifully balanced book. It is hoped that Platypus Deep will continue to introduce this curious animal to children, and not be the only remaining evidence of its existence.

(For children aged 3-10)

Platypus Deep, by Jill Morris & Heather Gall
Greater Glider Productions, 2006
ISBN 0947304 74 6

© alison miles, 2006.

The Wombat Who Talked to the Stars

Unlike their cousins, the Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat and the Common Wombat, the Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat is seriosuly endangered. There are only 113 Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombats living in the wild. In this delightful children’s book Jill Morris explores the plight of these creatures using a combination of fact and fiction.

Presented as a journal from the first person perspective of one the wombats, Male Number 25, the book explores the differences between the Northern Hairy-Nosed and its cousins, its habitat, the events which have led to its near-extinction and what is being done to save it.

Male 25 uses a variety of writing forms in his diary – a poem, charts, diagrams, recount and simple reporting of facts and is ably supported by the illustrations of Sharon Dye, who also uses a variety of techniques, including aged parchment backgrounds, botanical illustrations and full colour spreads.

The Wombat Who Talked to the Stars has won a swag of awards since it was first published in 1997, including the Excellence in Educational Publishing Award (1997), the Best Children’s Book in the Whitely Awards (1997) and a shortlisting for the Eve Pownall Award, 1998.

The Wombat Who Talked to the Stars is excellent nonfiction about a subject that should be important to all Australians.

The Wombat Who Talked to the Stars, by Jill Morris and Sharon Dye
Greater Glider, 1997, reprinted 2004

Harry the Hairy-Nosed Wombat, by Jill Morris

Harry lives in a tunnel under a limestone rock. He comes out at night to walk to his favourite feeding spot. He likes his life near the sea. But one day men in big machines come and start moving the rocks and clearing a space for a new road. When Harry comes out that night he is scared and runs back to his tunnel. In the days that follow work progresses on the road and Harry finds it harder to get out of his tunnel each night, until the men realise the problem and come up with a solution.

Harry the Hairy-Nosed Wombat is one of six stories in this illustrated collection. Others focus on a red kangaroo called Rufus, a platypus called Percy as well as a possum, a koala and a numbat. Each story tells a tale of the adventures of one animal as it interacts with humans, but also highlights the uniqueness of the plight of the particular species.

With each story five or six pages long and supported by three illustrations, this title is best suited for reading aloud to those in early primary, or for independent reading for those aged eight and over. It would make great bed time reading and also an excellent classroom resource.

Harry the Hairy-Nosed Wombat & Other Australian Animal Tales, by Jill Morris, illustrated by Tina Wilson
Greater Glider, 2003

Koala Number One, by Jill Morris

Until now, Kolo has lived with his mother, safe within the koala colony. Now, though, his father tells him he must leave. There can be only one big male koala in the colony.

Out on his own, Kolo has difficulty finding a safe place to live. Much of his habitat has been destroyed, and he faces feral predators and other perils such as cars and bushfire. Finding food and shelter is his greatest challenge, but finding company his greatest desire, as he finds it is no fun being alone.

Koala Number One is a fictional story but, like all of the author’s books, is also very educational. Children are being given a glimpse of the threats faced by koalas as man encroaches on what was once koala territory. As well as facts and information scattered within the story, the final page of the book also presents relevant facts.

The illustrations of Heather Gall are a superb complement to the text of Jill Morris, with delightfully detailed depitctions of the koalas, the bush and more.

Koala Number One is suitable for ages 4 to 8 and, as an educational tool is appropriate even for upper primary aged students.


Koala Number One, by Jill Morris, illustrated by Heather Gall
Greater Glider, 2004

Wombat Down Below, by Jill Morris

Big Foot the Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat lives alone in his comfortable burrow. He comes out at night to feed and exercise, but is very aware of the dangers he faces oustide. The grasses are drying up and the night is full of predators – dingoes, wild cats and owls.

When Big Foot finds better feed in another feeding ground, he decides to build a new burrow. Night after night he works on this burrow, returning to his old place to sleep each day. Eventually, though, he moves to his new burrow. Here, his greatest moment of danger comes on the night of the full moon, when the bright light exposes him to predators. His quick thinking and the element of surprise help him to overcome the danger.

Wombat Down Below is a fiction story, but it is based on real events in a small national park in central Queensland, where the only remaining colony of Northern Hairy-nosed wombats is found. A double paged spread at the back of the book describes the plight of this critically endangered species, and efforts to ensure their survival.

Author Jill Morris is passionate about Australian wildlife and about educating children (and adults) through her stories. Illustrator Lucy Everitt has provided life-like detail, with a special feature the cross sections showing the inside of the wombat’s burrow.

Wombat Down Below is both an entertaining story book and an outstanding educational aid.

Wombat Down Below, by Jill Morris, illustrated by Luci Everitt
Greater Glider, 2004

Silly Baby Magpie, by Jill Morris

Silly Baby Magpie!
Big eyes and floppy head…
I’ve been scratching, screeching, tapping
Now I’m ready to be fed.

Silly Baby Magpie
, a brand new book from Greater Glider Publications, follows baby magpie from his early life in the egg through his youth and on to maturity. Along the way we see his antics as he learns and plays.

Author Jill Morris combines simple, lively verse with text boxes containing non-fiction information about the magpie, one of Australia’s most common birds. The story and information are complemented by the richly detailed illustrations of Heather Gall.

A fun and informative picture book.

Silly Baby Magpie, by Jill Morris, illustrated by Heather Gall
Greater Glider Publications, 2003

Kookaburra School, by Jill Morris

There was a great chuckling and chortling, gurgling and cackling, as all the kookaburras of the tribe gathered together in a little forest at the top of a hill for Kookaburra school.

The kookaburra parents are all bringing their children to be tutored by Wise Old Bird in the ways of the kookaburra – take offs, landing, hunting for food and all manner of other important skills. BigEye isn’t so sure that he needs to go to kookaburra school, but his sister and parents convince him it is necessary, so off he goes.

At kookaburra school Big Eyes, his friends Blue Tail and Stripe and the other fledglings learn Pecking up Worms, Fast, Straight and Low Flying, Calls and Sitting still. They also learn to huddle together on a high branch before sunset, to be safe from danger.

But one afternoon, just before sunset, BigEyes chases a snake into the shed. The snake disappears, and BigEyes finds himself trapped behind cold hard glass. He has to spend the night trapped alone in the shed. How will he get out?

Kookaburra School, by Jill Morris, is a fictional story based on a real event at Jill’s home. One morning she found a kookaburra trapped in her studio, and rescued it. Later she watched a large group of kookaburras meeting in the forest near her home.

The delightful illustrations of Heather Gall make an excellent complement to this story, suitable for reading aloud to preschoolers and independent reading by six to eight year olds.

Kookaburra School, by Jill Morris
Greater Glider Productions, 2002. rrp $14.30