Review Blog

Jan 02 2019

Billie by Nicole Godwin and Demelsa Haughton

cover image

Tusk Books, 2018. ISBN 9780994531414
Billie the dolphin loves the wildness of surfing the ocean's waves - for her there is no greater thrill. And so she sets off to find the most enormous wave that she can, one that will make her happy, safe and free. But in her search for that one wonderful wave, she encounters more than she expected as she finds fellow marine creatures entangled in the human detritus and pollution of the ocean. Fishing lines, plastic bags, nets, noise . . . all are modern-day hazards that have to be navigated as the ocean's creatures go about their daily lives. Billie helps to free as many as she can, but when she herself is caught in a net and her new friends come to rescue her, she finds something that is even better than surfing the enormous waves.
The Canberra author of Ella has made it her mission to be a voice for those creatures of the wild who don't have their own voice to bring attention to the destruction of their habitat. Many young readers will be familiar with the sight of dolphins surfing the waves and develop a fascination for these beautiful, intelligent creatures from a young age. But they are unaware of the issues that dolphins face as the human world encroaches more and more on their environment and so it is books like this that carry a critical message of conservation as well as a charming story that inspire them to action. Rather like the little wave that forms and is then apparently lost in the vast ocean, but in fact becomes part of a larger wave, so the voices of authors like Godwin and illustrators like Haughton who has created such vivid images become bigger and bigger and louder and louder as both Ella and Billie are shared with our young students as part of the sustainability perspective of the Australian Curriculum.
The final double spread explains more about the issues that Billie encountered on her journey, and part of this includes the statement, 'One of the saddest parts of my journey was not being able to help my friends in the dolphin park. They belong in the wild, not in tanks.' This has the potential to become a formal debate on the role of places like SeaWorld and other venues where dolphins are held in captivity, perhaps even extending to the roles of zoos in the understanding and conservation of the planet's fauna. So while this appears to be a picture book for the very young, it has scope to be used with a much wider, older audience.
Barbara Braxton

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