Sometimes a book stops you mid-step and makes you open its cover. Fox and Fine Feathers, written and illustrated by Narelle Oliver and published by Scholastic Australia, arrested me in just such a fashion.
The stunning linocut, pencil and pastel illustrations drew my attention immediately. Children will love searching for the birds hidden within the landscapes, their camouflage enhanced by the illustration style.
This story has all the elements I’ve been searching for. It brings together true-to-their-nature animal behaviours in rich descriptive text, their native environment and a deeper message for children, all in one book. It’s no wonder it was shortlisted for the 2010 CBCA Awards last year!
Lyrebird, Coucal, Pitta and Night-jar are birds of the forest floor. Although as different as it is possible to be from one another, they always look out for danger and warn each other. But one day, only Night-jar is watching. Can he warn the others in time?
Apart from having all the ingredients I like in a wildlife picture book, the final pages contain notes on the habitats and species depicted in the story. These facts help to extend the life of the book, providing more in-depth information for discussions with older or more inquisitive children.
The story is perfect for classroom discussions and lessons on camouflage, introduced species, predator-prey relationships, ground-dwelling birds, food chains and animal defense mechanisms. There’s an array of lesson plan examples developed for the classroom. Teachers and keen parents can find them here.