Backyard beasties by Helen Milroy

cover image

Aimed a young readers, the bright, colourful illustrations, reflecting Aboriginal motifs, will delight readers as they see the animals displayed on each page. The succinct text gives clues to small children about the animals shown, and adults reading the book with them will be able to draw out more information. The vista in the backyard takes in a hen, a dog, lizard, bats, cat, turtle, possum, quenda, gecko and frog. Children will love seeing those they know and finding out about animals they’ve not come across before. And all in their backyard! This will encourage them to look more closely at what is around them.  Each line uses a word to describe the animal; turtle slips into the pond, bat hangs sleeping through the day, and then each line has a rhyming line over the pages encouraging younger readers to predict what that word might be.

llustrations are executed using techniques recognisably used by Aboriginal artists including patterns, dots and line design, reflecting the environment in which the animal lives. They are just wonderful, evoking the richly detailed designs which have become so familiar. At the end of the book is a composite page showing all the animals covered in the book, and children will enjoy reprising what they have read so far. A good memory enhancement.

The size of the book ensures it will be held in small hands and children will enjoy seeing the animals that live close by. Helen’s other books, Backyards bugs and Backyard birds were well received.

Helen Milroy, a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia was born and educated in Perth. Australias first Indigenous doctor, she has held many posts to do with children, medicine and mental health, and was recently appointed as the AFLs first indigenous commissioner. Wombat, Mudlark and Other Stories is her first book for children and was shortlisted for several major awards.

Teaching notes are available from the publisher.

Themes: Animals, Backyard, Verse, Aboriginal painting.

Fran Knight