Carole Wilkinson, Putting Australia on the Map, Wild Dog, February 2020, 128 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781742035932
Author Carole Wilkinson is well known for her epic Dragonkeeper series. Putting Australia on the Map is a nonfiction picture book about the various attempts of explorers to create a drawn map of the continent that became known as Australia.
Each landscape page has a beautiful colour reproduction of maps, sourced from library archives or the public domain. The clear text describes the various, often competitive historical attempts to find a mysterious hidden continent rumoured in the southern hemisphere. Wilkinson captures the wonder and skill of cartographers and geographers, portraying a sense of what it must have been like to sail off into the vast unknown on a rumour of luxurious spices and precious gems.
The focus of this book is very clearly on cartographic mapping and drawing maps of the coastline on paper and not exploration. An important inclusion made in the text is that Australia’s First Nations People inhabited the continent at least 50,000 years before these mapping attempts. There are some references to the ignorance of European explorers in their disregard of Australia’s First Nations People, and the lack of understanding of First Nations’ culture and science. Such vital deeper historical contexts about mapping, and understanding how discovery and exploration impacted Australia’s First Nations People are included in the Putting Australia on the Map Teacher’s notes on the publisher’s website.
This is an interesting book which will appeal to readers who are fascinated by maps and the wonder of exploration. Paired with questions that can also probe into the context of cartography and geography in the history of Australia, and the impact of European discovery on Australia’s First Nations People, Putting Australia on the Map creates an opportunity for a rich and varied discussion about mapping Australia.
Reviewed by Angela Brown