Ten little figs by Rhian Williams

cover image

Illus. by Nathaniel Eckstrom. Walker Books Australia, 2020. ISBN: 9781921977312.
(Ages: 2-6) Recommended. Ten Little Figs is by newcomer author Rhian Williams and established illustrator Nathaniel Eckstrom (The Dress-Up Box and Duck!). '10 little figs are on my tree. I love figs and they're all for me. A flying fox dives, fast and low. Where, oh where, did that fig go?'. And so, the countdown begins as each of the ten figs are taken from the tree by a parade of Australian insects and animals (leaf-curling spiders, finches, green ants, rainbow lorikeets, wombats, Hercules moths, echidnas, spotted-tailed quoll). Before long there is only one fig left on the tree, but the little boy can't reach it. 'Why, oh why, is there no fig for me? But who is this climbing out of the tree? It's my daddy . . . and what do I see? The last little fig! And we will share it- just him and me.'
It is nice to see some unusual inclusions in the animal line-up and the information on the last page explains that 'the juicy figs in this story grow on the sandpaper fig tree. It has leaves as rough as sandpaper and, just like all the animals in this book, it is native to Australia'. Dreamy, soft illustrations depict a rambling Australian background with a commanding fig tree at its centre. Complete with a dog, a jacaranda tree, a rickety wooden fence and a tree swing, this will feel like home for many of those reading it. The tree itself is so immense that we never see it in its entirety, instead being treated to tantalising glimpses of it from various perspectives and heights around the garden. There are also some hidden illustrative features that children might spot on repeat readings (a clue to the next creature is visible on the preceding pages, for example) and a visual number chart at the end for reference and recall.
This is a beautifully-imagined book about noticing and finding joy in our natural world and will particularly resonate with anyone who has a beloved fig tree in their backyard (or any bountiful fruit tree for that matter). Themes: Counting book, Native Australian animals, Rhyming story.
Nicole Nelson