Dannika Patterson (text) and Megan Forward, (illustrator), Scribbly Gum Secrets, Ford Street Publishing, April 2020, 32 pp., RRP $16.95 (pbk), ISBN 9781925804485
I think many caregivers will relate to the scene at the beginning of this book; children sprawled across the lounge room hypnotised by an electronic device. Scribbly Gum Secrets tells the story of how ‘Mum’ encourages her initially reluctant children outside and into nature. We journey with the family as they wander through the bush and uncover it’s many ‘secrets’.
The story is written as a rhyming poem, that provides an even flow for the reader, and introduces the four children; Cooper, Max, Layla and Charlie. Whilst the other children discover many interesting flora and fauna along their walk, Charlie is intrigued by the scribbles on the trees they encounter and wants to know what they say. Mum explains it is not writing, it is the markings of the scribbly gum grub, the observant reader may decide otherwise.
Megan Forward’s generous and free-flowing watercolour scenes of the bush are wonderfully rich in texture and detail, and really impart that sense of rugged natural beauty. There are so many visual details for the reader to pore over within each page spread, so ideally a book to be enjoyed in a partnership or alone to allow this full immersion.
Scribbly Gum Secrets is one of those extra dimension books, where the reader feels like they have been invited into a secret intriguing world. There are hidden gems waiting to be discovered beyond the initial glance of the pages. This discovery element is sure to enchant the beginning reader up to middle primary ages, as well as being a great resource for environmental studies. I highly recommend this book for a school or personal library.
Reviewed by Julie Bertola