Spines In The Sand – paperback
‘What’s that strange dark bundle rolling across the sand?’ Pedro and his mum rush to find out.
Following animal tracks to see where an animal leads you is a wonderful journey with a child.
Review by Bindi Isis
The title evokes thought of fish bones or sea urchin spikes, but this gentle acquaintance with habitat actually stars a monotreme. That is, one of Australia’s and the world’s only, two, egg laying mammals. The author, Diane Lucas and her son, Pedro, are spending a day of play and inquiry, where the forest meets the sea when they spy an echidna. It’s difficult to believe that a great many echidnas have the fortune of making such beautiful beachfront their home, but through this narrative and Colwyn Campbell’s beautiful watercolour, readers can imagine what pleasure it would bring to traverse these landscapes, eating ants all day.
The words and illustrations of Spines in the Sand, impart both sensory knowledge and a textural immediacy, of the world they depict. You can feel the sea breeze rustling through the grass on the dunes. You want to shade your eyes from the hot sun beating down, heating up the sand. Contrast this, within the forest, where a sweet scent of beauty leaf fills the cool air and butterflies saunter by. Children will enjoy looking for the protagonist, shuffling about his day, leaving tracks in the sand. They will feel they could be out there exploring with Diane and Pedro, spotting other creatures camouflaged by the bark, shells, leaves and flowers of these enchanting pages.
Like previous Lucas & Campbell collaborations Waterlilies and Brumbies in the Night, this text has real value in guiding children and their parents to appreciate the wonderment of spending time in wild places. It is remarkable that the habitats of Spines in the Sand are so diverse in feeling and in species yet all within a day’s play for Pedro or within a day’s walk for an echidna. Generally, this book portrays plants and animals that coastal dwellers in Northern Australia will find familiar. There is a list of common and scientific names on the last page, of the flora and fauna featured in the illustrations throughout. By checking this you can be sure you and your child have spotted all the critters.
Children accustomed to moving parts, bright cartoons, and simplified images of animals and landscapes may find this book a challenge, ensure their parents and their teachers persist. For one thing, there is something very engaging about the way the echidna stares out from page 18. And then, when you venture out and visit wild places of your own finding, you will remember to explore with all your senses, to ask questions of the things that you encounter and to take wonder in the life forms that surround you, Just like Diane and Pedro on that sun bleached beach in Queensland. Certainly, a must have picture book, of children’s northerly Australiana.