Bush Tracks and What’s That There? Are two new paperback picture books by Ros Moriarty with illustrations by Balarinji. They use striking Indigenous artwork and lush, descriptive language to draw children’s attention to the world around them.
Bush Tracks invites readers to take a walk down to the sea. What will we spot in the bush along the way? The illustrations, using the colours of the natural environment on white background, marry with text that urges us to move and take action – to run, wade, walk and dig – as we explore the plants, birds, sea creatures and land animals we encounter as we head toward our destination.
This is a call to venture outdoors, to be open to an awareness of what’s around us on the ground and in the sky. As we watch out for snakes and crocodiles, guided by the moon and stars, we stop and take time to wonder about the universe and the natural world, and our place within them.
Moriarty’s imagery is evocative and exciting. There are dangers to face along the bush track but, after braving the lightning and the wild winds, we return to shelter safely at the end of the journey. It’s a challenging and satisfying trip.
The question and answer format of What’s That There? is perfect for young readers, with predictability that builds deepening engagement with the words and images. Birds and insects answer the question again and again as they describe Australia’s landscape, flora and fauna. Alongside the text, the illustrations are a jewel box of colours; jade, purple and pink hues contrast with the deep blue and ochre of the land.
What can we spy? There’s the rushing river, the stones glinting in the sun, the jagged cliffs and bony ridges. Cockatoos screech through the forest canopy as tiny creatures hide in the bark of a tree trunk. These are the sights and sounds of life and nature.
At the end of both books is the Yanyuwa translation of the text. Yanyuwa is the language spoken by the Aboriginal families of Borroloola in the Northern Territory. Buying these books supports Indigenous early learning, as a proportion of the income from sales goes to the Indi Kindi program.
Bush Tracks and What’s That There? are a joy to read, both for parents and children, and are essential additions to every Australian child’s bookshelf.
Reviewed by Jo Vabolis
Rating out of 10: 10
Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: May 2018
RRP: $12.99 each