‘What’s That There?’ excels in capturing the attention of children who are at preliterate and beginning reader stages. Each page starts with the same question, ‘What’s that there?’ then leads the viewer to answer the question, ‘There, look!’ The answers invariably use strong visual imagery, alliteration and assonance with words such as ‘jagged cliff’’, ‘sun-scorched stones’, ‘sun-drenched berries ripening’ and ‘towering grasses swishing’. The final line, ‘That’s our country shining’ expresses the aim of this book—to appreciate Country. The final double page offers the same text in Yanyuwa language alongside the English text, offering an opportunity to explore Indigenous language and culture in an early childhood setting. The Yanyuwa language is spoken by Indigenous families in Borroloola, Northern Territory.
The artwork is simple and stunning. It features both familiar and not so familiar creatures such as the sea eagle, hawk, butterflies, brolga, cockatoo, stick-bug, sugarbag bees, kookaburra, grasshopper and dragonfly. These are all set against landforms as seen from an aerial view. The artwork is produced by the Balarinji Studio, an Aboriginal-owned strategy and design agency which states that is founded on ‘authentic engagement with Aboriginal people, culture, art, stories and identity’.
Although not labelled as a series, this and Moriarty’s books in her Indi Kindi early learning and literacy program, designed to promote early literacy, all feature a similar size, format, linguistic expression and artistic design.