Lucky and Spike by Norma MacDonald
Magabala Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781921248177.
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Themes: Aboriginal themes, Animals, Feral cats, Environment. Another story about Lucky the spinifex hopping mouse will enchant readers, absorbing another story about this animal, first introduced in Spinifex Mouse (2013). He and his brother, Spike, peer out from their burrows as night falls, going out to search for food. First they must watch out for other feeding animals, particularly those that like to feed on them. The coast clear, they hop off to the people camp where they know women are grinding spinifex seeds into flour, dropping a few seeds on the ground that they can eat.
But a feral cat is on the prowl and spots them, chasing them into the crowd of dancers. A camp dog joins in and chases the cat up a tree. Here a barking owl sits watching for small prey and swoops down to the spinifex where Lucky and Spike are hiding. But the cat sees the owl and pounces. The owl is too quick and flies back to its tree, while the cat cuts itself on the spinifex and races off into the night, leaving the two mice to retreat, thinking themselves very lucky indeed.
This tale not only teaches children to be careful when out by themselves, but also teaches about Aboriginal people who live in the spinifex areas, giving small details about life for desert animals and information about the feral animals that prey on the native animals. This book would make a wonderful teaching tool, a springboard for many discussions about life in Australia for people and animals, the introduced species and the devastation they cause. Children will be able to recognise flora and fauna that live in the desert, and locate the area where the tale is set. The soft illustrations by MacDonald give an air of authenticity to the tale, and her use of flowing text full of movement, with highlighted words increases the interest to the eye.
Information at the end of the book tells about the feral cats and the damage they cause, and relates a potted biography of MacDonald and her painting.