Windcatcher (Diane Jackson Hill, illus by Craig Smith, CSIRO Publishing)
Windcatcher is the story of the migration of the short-tailed shearwater. In particular, the solo offspring of bird number 625. Her mother was tagged with a metal leg band so rangers could document her flight path and lifespan, thus the reader follows her as she starts off from a small island in the Southern Ocean, laying just one egg, a chick named Hope by the ranger. The book marks all the risks to the small avian family, including the mighty wind and the plastic debris on the ocean floor that may be mistaken for food. Hope’s growth is noted through her development of ‘steel-grey flight feathers’ and then her sudden flight as she’s taken by wind currents across the Pacific Ocean. There is more drama, thanks to fishing nets, but luckily some kind fishermen untangle Hope and her fellow fledglings, allowing them to continue their flight. The illustrations by Craig Smith are naturalistic, to match the serious tone of the narrative. This book is more educational, so the storytelling is straightforward with no whimsical flourishes. There’s a factual list of information at the end that explores further details about shearwaters: their breeding, the length of their migration and so forth. Windcatcher is best for middle-primary kids upwards, especially those interested in seabirds and their habitats.
Thuy On is a freelance arts journalist and reviewer, and the books editor of the Big Issue