Circle by Jeannie Baker
Walker Books, 2016. ISBN 9781406338010
(Age: all) Highly recommended. Natural world. Birds. Inter relationship. Environment. The circle of life is reprised on every page in this beautiful new book from illustrator/author Jennie Baker. Her story of the godwits, the birds which amazingly wing their way from Alaska to Australia and back each year, will stun the readers. The story itself is a powerful reminder that we are all interrelated, that what humans do has an impact upon the rest of the planet, and from the perspective of this one small bird, that our interference with the coastline seriously degrades their habitat. Linked with her glorious collage illustrations the book reflects the environment in which we all live and makes a spine tingling imperative that we do much more to protect it.
The life cycle of the godwit is shown through one bird, one with white splashes on his wings, and we follow him throughout the book. He flies from Alaska to Australia, a journey of 11,000 kilometres and on the return journey he finds a mate, they build a nest together and raise their chicks. Each arm of their journey is fraught with danger as their environment is degraded, places they once stopped to rest are gone, buildings dot the coastlines, land clearance has put their feeding places at risk and foxes search for their chicks.
Every page greets the inquiring reader, intriguing them with hints of just how each picture is made, astonishing them with information about this amazing bird, revealing just how we have made the environment so difficult for these birds to survive. Each page impels the reader to stop and think about why our earth is now in such great peril. Our interconnection is repeated throughout the book, no reader can miss the powerful message being offered.
The circle motif is repeated throughout the book with the curvature of the earth shown in many of the illustrations. The reader cannot escape the image of the reserve where the boy watches the birds at the beginning of the book, compared with the reserve at the end: degraded, overused, with industry encroaching on its borders. Readers will easily spot the impact of man on this environment, the lights of the city seen from on high as the birds fly north, the increasing rubbish seen on the beach, the degradation of the waterfront, the number of buildings seen in the background, planes in the sky. Further inspection of each wonderful image will enhance the readers' interpretation and awe. And readers will ponder the image of the boy, at first disabled and in a wheelchair, dreaming of flying, at the end leaving his crutches behind and running onto the beach, and later still dreaming of flying with his crutches beneath his bed. The bird and the boy have been on impressive journeys, causing the reader to stop and speculate on each of them, and wondering how the boy, a bird watcher, can use his knowledge to make a change. This book throws the question back on the reader, and will create much discussion in classrooms and libraries.
Editor's note: Teacher's notes are available at the publisher's website.