Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under
By Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Jan Dubin
Over in Australia where you can go “a-waltzing” you can also see animals that are found nowhere else in the world. Author Marianne Berkes explains in her book “Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under” that because Australia is a huge island-continent the animals that came “established themselves there and nowhere else.”
The book is full of information about the Australian animals and ecosystem, but it is not a text book. It is written at a second grade level with simple words and an easy rhythm.
“Zig,” said the father.
“We zag,” said the ten.
So they zigged and they zagged
With their father “mother hen.”
The poem invites action. Each animal mentioned in the book has two verses dedicated to it. The first verse tells the name of the animal, and what the baby of the species is called. So we are introduced to the hatchling (crocodile), joey (kangaroo), joey (koala), puggles (platypus), chick (lorikeet), joey (wombat), joey (sugar glider), chick (brolga), joey (bilby), and chick (emu). Did you know that so many animal babies are called joey?
The second verse describes the action: crocodiles snap, kangaroos hop, with depiction of the activities of all the ten animals. The children can make it a reading game. As they sing the poem they can snap and hop and munch and splash their way through the verses. This link takes you to an interview with the author. The interviewer talks of other books here, but the video gives an idea of how activities can be integrated into the reading: http://www.dawnpub.com/making-a-splash-with-marianne-berkes/.
And that is not all. Each spread has a hidden animal. Jill Dubin the illustrator has created these beautiful, many-layered drawings, accurately presenting the desert, the grassland and the forest, and the animals that leave in each biome. Along with learning about the cuddly koalas and snappy crocodiles the children sharpen their observation skills.
It is also a counting book As they count the animals they learn the numbers from 1 to 10.
The back matter is filled with detailed descriptions of the animals, tips from the author, tips from the illustrator and the music for the song “Over in the meadow” on which this poem is based. This link http://www.dawnpub.com/media/overintheoceansong.mp3 takes you to an audio rendition of “Over in the Ocean”. The children can sing-along, replacing the words of the song with the verses of this book.
There is math, there is science, there is music. There is a plethora of author-created activities. A worthy addition to any reading list.