‘Bush Tracks’ takes its young readers on a meandering journey along the creek, through the mangroves, past the windswept dunes by the salty sea, and finally to the safety of a cave as a wild storm strikes. The book highlights our symbiotic relationship with the environment – there is fresh water to drink near the sand dunes, sticks with which to make spears to hunt for fish, plants to feed us, and caves to seek shelter in. We are reminded of the importance of caring for country – which in turn will care for us.
Children are taken on a rich visual and lyrical journey, as the text works seamlessly with the illustrations to provide clues via the landscape, seasons, weather, and night sky, as to where we are going. Young children will delight in the elements of danger along the journey as we are warned to watch out for a snake, and to be careful of the sharp prongs of the spear. We even spy a crocodile tail as it slips past us off the page. These exclamations to ‘watch out!’ invite us to participate in the journey, to feel as if we are climbing the steep hill, or jumping out of the way of the snake. Audience participation is also encouraged via the questions posed at the end of each page, such as: ‘Is that a crocodile tail?’ and ‘Is that shooting light a meteor glowing?’ It is a welcome relief to finally seek shelter in the cave at the end of the journey after all this exploration.
Central to the theme of the book is the idea of the ways in which our native animals and plants can sustain us, and the importance of looking after our environment. This may lead to discussion in a class or home environment in relation to animal habitats, the cycle of the seasons and the phases of the moon. Related activities might include walking around school or a nearby walking trail identifying features, observing the night sky at home to become familiar with the stars and moon, or studying Aboriginal culture. The dot painting and different patterns and textures provide a vibrant visual display, and may inspire children to create their own artworks using similar techniques.
A translation of the English text into the Yanyuwa language spoken by Aboriginal families in Borroloola, NT, is included at the end of the book. This may open up discussion about the importance of preserving Aboriginal language and the power of story across all languages and cultures.
Ros Moriarty is the founder of Indi Kindi pre-literacy education, and author of the acclaimed 'Listening to Country' – a memoir of her journey with the matriarchs of her husband’s Aboriginal family.