Dry to dry: the seasons of Kakadu by Pamela Freeman

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Illus. by Liz Anelli. Walker Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781760650285. 32pp.
(Age: 5+) Recommended. Another in the series of Nature Storybooks published by Walker Books invites readers to 'delve into the natural world'. This series of books promises that 'every wonderful word is true' as a story develops in one font while the facts are given in a more formal style in a different font, usually placed at the bottom of the page. With a substantial index, and extra information at the back of each book, they support environmental work in any classroom while encouraging younger readers to be dazzled by the world in which they live.
Dry to dry shows us the two main seasons of Kakadu in Australia's north. This huge wetland, now a national park of world heritage status, supports at least 280 bird species, while many animals known to environmentalists across the world live there.
The book opens and finishes with the dry, and we see and read of the animals that survive during the two seasons and how they live in such conditions. Packed within a couple of paragraphs on each page is an enormous amount of information, told in tight, sparse prose. Several pages along, the lightning strikes begin with the cockatoos headed for their roost before the rain. These rains only start the creeks flowing again, it is later that the wet comes, filling them to the brim, overflowing into the land beyond, until Kakadu becomes a wetland. A range of animals is mentioned, frogs that provide food for predators, crocodiles looking for frogs and crustaceans, a myriad of birds, some flying in from the Arctic, some from closer realms, jabiru with its nest high in the banyan tree, while during the downpour, snakes and goannas seek higher ground in the same tree.
But then the rains cease and the heat bears down, drying up the wetlands, creeks recede to waterholes, the waterholes sink beneath the ground, the turtles bury themselves waiting for the wet to come agin.
At the end, alongside a page of information about Kakadu, a page is devoted to the Aboriginal way of dividing Kakadu's seasons. They distinguish six seasons and these are explained with their Kakadu word and given a reference to the book's pages.
This lovely book, full of information accessible to younger readers fits alongside other Kakadu books such as Walking with the seasons at Kakadu (Allen & Unwin, 2003) Kakadu calling (Magabala, 2013) and My home in Kakadu (Magabala, 2006).
The mixed media illustrations are stylish and impressionistic, colours muted and understated, and children will enjoy looking for the many animals, birds and plant life shown. Some are given with flair, an impression rather than a detailed examination, while others are more carefully drawn, giving children a more precise picture of the animal shown. I can imagine children getting out other books about Australian flora and fauna to identify some of the animals and plants shown. I love the glimpses of human life, the tour bus, the kids playing around the termite mounds, the bird hide, road signs, campervan and river cruise.
And I was overjoyed to see a pair of maps indicating where Kakadu is on the continent of Australia and a closer map of Kakadu National Park. Teacher's notes are also available.
Themes: Aboriginal life, Kakadu, Northern Territory, Environment, Animals, Birds.
Fran Knight