Desert Lake by Pamela Freeman

cover image

Ill. by Liz Anelli. Nature Storybooks series. Walker Books, 2016. ISBN 9781921529436
(Age: 6+) Highly recommended. Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, Desert, South Australia, Animals. Within the realm of this wonderful series, a story is told in which every word is true, set alongside a text which gives the non fiction detail. This template has worked with other books in this series, Big red kangaroo, Python and Emu. And here the same format is used again to show the reader the amazing life of a desert lake in South Australia, known as Kati Thanda or Lake Eyre.
The story sited at the top of each page tells of the coming rains which invigorate the eggs laid beneath the dry crust of the lake, while at the bottom of each page in a different font, we read the detail, that the rains only come every ten years or so, that the eggs are buried deep in the earth often years before. Over the page we learn that the rain falls many kilometres away that it takes a long time to trickle south to the lake, that the water makes the eggs quickly turn into tadpoles then frogs, ready to mate and die before the desert takes over again. Thousands of birds fly north, lizards come along to the water's edge, and each drinks and eats until the desert begins to take over again. Plants grow, seed and die and the water begins to dry up.
The story at the top of the page in larger font, uses a heavier font to accentuate some of the words, like Rain falls, or emerge, and so on, underlining the events which are happening at the lake. The smaller font at the bottom of the page reads more like a text, but one so interesting that it dovetails the words above, giving them a wider meaning.
The illustrations are luminous, giving an image of that outback place with its variety and colour for all readers to pore over. On every page closer inspection is called for if only to look for the range of flora and fauna included on that page. Small hints are given of man's footprint on the land, a farmhouse and train line, a windmill and train, but the overwhelming theme is of the natural world in all of its glory, reviving with the intermittent rains, bringing the once dry lake back to life, only to have it all gone with months, if not weeks. The sheer amazement at this occurrence in the north of South Australia is given full reign in this book, and it will appeal to anyone opening its pages.
Fran Knight