‘He is no more than a speck in the sky waiting for another flash of silver.’ Narelle Oliver’s tribute to the majestic osprey which flies ‘high above the sea’ was only her second published title and illustrated in her trademark linocut medium.
The prints are delicately overlaid with watercolours, and the navy-blue cover presents a stylish work to readers. The blue endpapers are decorated with linocut images of feathers, shells and dragonflies etched in white. Oliver’s works are often environmentally themed and based on close observations of nature and research into the subjects which have inspired each book. Her research included frequent visits to coastal areas in Australia.
An osprey lives in a variety of habitats. Sometimes known as sea hawks, they are diurnal, fish-eating birds of prey with an enormous wingspan. The Australasian of the species tends not to migrate as ospreys do in other parts of the world. This book visually presents the osprey with a text which is poetic and spare. It details the osprey hovering above the coastline waiting to swoop on its prey and contains the repeated line: ‘But the osprey waits and watches.’ The text variously depicts a honeyeater, a lace monitor, curlews, pied oyster catchers, a weedy sea-dragon and a bream.
At the end of the book, the author has included a note on the Osprey which explains that the population is dwindling in Australia, and that the use of pesticide appears to be the primary cause, with land development being another. It also contains another note on linocut making.
This was an extremely creative work which explained to children the predatory habits of the osprey in a poetic and visually arresting fashion. It was an early indication that Narelle Oliver (1960–2016) would leave a huge legacy of treasured books for her readers to enjoy.