Aussie animal opposites by Elizabeth Lea

cover image

Ill. by Liz Faul. National Library of Australia, 2013. ISBN 9780642277664. Board book.
This board book, published by the National Library of Australia is a fun and functional addition to the home or pre school library. Using cartoon style illustrations, Australian animals find themselves in all manner of unusual person like situations, such as playing the drums, shaking a rattle, and juggling. In many of the illustrations, the animals are wearing clothes.
For me, the unlikely presentations of the animals detracts somewhat from what would otherwise be a book I would like a great deal. After all, there is much here to recommend the text - the animals are all Australian, and the opposites and antonyms are not limited to the generic 'up/down, night/day' which can become very tiresome very quickly. Rich antonyms are used here, such as the juxtaposition of energetic with lazy and angry with calm. Using such language bathes young children in rich adjectives, and is to be encouraged.
I recognise the challenge of selecting pictures to go with the text, as 'calm'would be hard to convey with a stock photo of a cassowary - the illustrator has done a good job of matching the picture to the descriptor, but the style of illustration, especially when positioned alongside the beautiful illustrations and information/activities at the back of the book, cheapens the tone.
That said, there is a great deal to recommend the book. For such a simple concept, the language is textured, the end of the book gives many extension activities (which, I have to say, are pitched a little higher than the books intended audience, but are of value none the less), and the animals are a wonderful introduction to the fauna of our nation.
Freya Lucas