Helen Milroy, Backyard Birds, Fremantle Press, March 2020, 32 pp.,, RRP $19.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781925816563
The cover’s striking artwork, luxurious glossy feel, and bold, informal typeface all work together to invite young children (2-4) to open this picture book and explore.
Inside, readers will find a range of popular native birds, including magpie, zebra finch, galah and kookaburra. In all, ten Aussie birds are featured; each with its own eye-catching double page spread featuring indigenous art: author/illustrator Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
The birds are not all ones I’d see in my backyard (e.g. owl), but each reader will likely find a few species familiar to them and discover some new ones too.
The simple rhyming poem is well-suited to the target audience age.
In my backyard there’s lots to see.
I love the birds that visit me!
For each bird, a single line of text appears on the left page, and its glorious illustration is on the right. The design of the text pages is wonderful. Each page is a different colour, reminding me of those bold, glossy colour squares used in primary school art classes (at least, when I was a kid). The lettering almost jumps off the page, with various sizes and orientations to suit the content. There’s also a fun little symbol unique to each line of text, which may help pre-readers work out the meaning of the words.
A couple of near rhymes in the poem could be distracting for some (e.g. laugh and bath), but there is much to enjoy here, encouraging a love of language, art, and our precious natural world.
Teaching notes are available.
Reviewed by Julie Murphy