Searching for cicadas by Lesley Gibbes and Judy Watson

cover image

Nature Storybooks. Walker Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781922244420.
(Age: 5+) Highly recommended. Themes: Cicadas, Environment, Observation, Grandparents. An older man and his grandson go cicada watching each summer. The pair pack their sleeping bags and tent and walk down to the Apex Reserve where they camp with others to observe the insects. They look out for the insects called surprisingly, Double Drummers, Yellow Mondays, Green Grocers and Floury Bakers. Each cicada has a strong body and six legs and two pairs of wings that fold back. The boy's excitement is obvious. This year he wants to spot a Black Prince, a cicada rarely seen.
Beautifully told, the pages have text in two different fonts: one is a more formal font which outlines the story of the boy and his grandfather, while the other more casual font gives information about the cicadas. In this way, as with all the wonderful books in the Nature Storybooks series, the reader can enjoy the story and read the facts as well.
On each page the pair is depicted strolling to the park, setting up their tent, waiting for the dark when they get their torches out to search for the cicadas.
The illustrations rendered first in pencil, brush ad ink, use a monotype technique before all is transferred to Photoshop for assemblage and colour. And the finished product is stunning. Readers will pore over the pages looking at the incredible detail included on each page, the depiction of Australian plants producing a chorus of wows amongst the children, while the detailed cicada will draw entreaties to go out and see them for themselves.
The relationship between grandpa and grandson is beautifully presented and the subtle layering of community gives an extra warm moment for the readers. What the people are doing is not common and so will encourage others to look out for these themselves, to observe, to research, to wonder. A beautifully arresting book with an index, and extra information about the cicadas, author and illustrator on the last pages. Classroom ideas are available.
Fran Knight