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Song of the White Ibis

By Phillip Gwynne and illustrated by Liz Anelli
Reviewed by Sarah Custance
Phillip Gwynne is an Australian author with over 20 books to his name, spanning from picture books to YA.
Song of the White Ibis is an interesting picture book as it covers a lot of ground in a short amount of space. We are given facts about the Australian White Ibis and its connections to the Sacred Ibis of Egypt. We are shown their widespread habitats all throughout Australia, their importance to agriculture, along with a bit of their anatomy and why they are so resilient. The reader is also told of how humans encroaching upon their natural habitats has led them to the cities and the impact that this has had on the land.
As we learn each new bit of information about the White Ibis it is preceded by the words, “Call me Bin Chicken. Call me Tip Turkey. Call me Picnic Pirate.” to help highlight the fact that we often overlook and underestimate the importance that all creatures play in our environments. It ends with a call to action and a reminder to look after this planet as ‘There is no planet B!’.
Song of the White Ibis is not your typical picture book and won’t be for everyone, but if you have a young reader who loves information books, or as a parent you want to slowly introduce some of these big topics then this is the right picture book for you. As the book just briefly touches on each topic it leaves room for further individual research depending on what the reader finds interesting.
The illustrations by Liz Anelli are often quite busy and muted compared to regular picture books but is in full keeping with the factual storytelling of Phillip Gwynne. Song of the White Ibis is aimed more at an older audience and teachers rather than at children but there are always exceptions when it comes to reading!
Penguin 2022
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