Reviewed by Nicola Cayless
Granddad is looking for Iggy. Have you seen him? He’s about this tall, brown and furry, with a tail. Iggy never speaks; just looks silently. Iggy is his grandson. Iggy, whatever he is, is not human. Is he a cat? A dog? A possum? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because Iggy is, above all else, loved by his grandfather.
A Walk in the Bush is a moving, gentle story about ‘the wonders of nature, the funny side of life, and spending time with the ones we love’. This picture book is a wonderful journey through the Australian bush, meeting all kinds of Aussie animals and seeing wonderful Aussie landscapes. A Walk in the Bush is a celebration of Australia and family.
Back to Iggy: he’s odd. He’s small, and looks nothing like his grandfather. When we first meet him, he is hiding in a box, hauled up by his granddad to go on a walk in the bushland. Grumpily, Iggy accepts the sunscreen and the hat that his grandfather insists on him wearing, and is hauled out into the bush. First, we see him being inspected by a curious goanna, who Iggy observes with trepidation. But as his granddad brings him further and further into the bush, Iggy becomes more and more natural, willingly observing the wonders of Australian wildlife.
The text follows Granddad’s running monologue, which informs Iggy and the reader all about the Australian landscape. “Can you hear the magpie singing? And the kookaburras, too?” he asks. “I always forget which is which.” With questions posed to Iggy, it is a perfect opportunity for parents and children to answer the questions themselves – do your children know what each bird sounds like? Can they join in the bird song with the kookaburras and magpies, and the cockatoos?
Not only does A Walk in the Bush introduce us to goannas, wallabies, and various Australian birds, it also tells us about the wondrous fauna we have: the eucalyptus leaves which give off a refreshing scent; the bush tracks that weave amongst trees, scribbled with secret caterpillar messages (which Granddad claims to be able to read); and even the new shoots of trees coming through after a bushfire. Again, a perfect opportunity for kids to learn not just about our animals, but about the land – what we can do in it, and how we look after it.
The illustrations are gentle, pastel, and with fine details. The scribbles of the leaves are reminiscent of the scribbling of the caterpillar plants, and the leaves are painted with gentle, soft colour. The birds, in particular, steal the story, with their bright colours and personable faces, and their bird song scribbled out in large, loud letters – bringing the sounds immediately into our mind. The landscape spreads bring to mind fond memories of bush walks in the Blue Mountains and elsewhere, and will inspire excitement in children.
A Walk in the Bush, for all its wonderful illustrations and the relationship between Iggy and Granddad, will inspire nostalgia for Australia in adults, and what’s more, excitement for children: for the birds, the goannas, the wallabies, and for spending time in the bush with family.
Born in Melbourne in 1942, Gwyn Perkins began his artistic career when he won a newspaper drawing prize of one guinea and a box of paints (mistakenly awarded to Miss Gwyn Perkins). He spent many years as a successful animator in the advertising industry before moving to an island north of Sydney to enjoy a slower pace. He spends his days drawing, sailing and doing odd jobs for his friends and family. Gwyn has two adult sons and lives with his wife and teenage daughter.
Click here to purchase a copy of A Walk in the Bush, and here to read our interview with author-illustrator, Gwyn Perkins. And, of course, follow Better Reading Kids on Facebook for more A Walk in the Bush, and all the kids’ books you could want.