Dry To Dry : The Seasons Of Kakadu – Book Review

Frank Sinatra popularised a song in the late 60’s that contained the lyrics “Regrets, I’ve had a few But then again, too few to mention”. My Way – can you hear it playing in your head now? – has recently been knocked off the top of the charts as the most popular song to have played at a funeral. As at last October the perennial favourite dropped to number two in the annual rankings, being replaced by Gerry & The Pacemakers’ You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Anyway, I totally get the sentiment. Even with Covid my life has been blessed. My only personal regret is not having made it to the Northern Territory to visit my daughter due to border closures, especially following the arrival of the country’s finest project, young Harry Kilom.

Kakadu National Park is in the Northern Territory, roughly 180 south east of Darwin, the capital city. It covers an area of 19,804 km2 making it the second largest national park in Australia. It is the size of Wales and nearly half the size of Switzerland to give you some perspective.

Our First Nations people have occupied the Kakadu area continuously for at least 40,000 years. Kakadu National Park is renowned for the richness of its Aboriginal cultural sites as well as the diversity of the fauna and flora. Its cultural and natural values were recognised internationally when the park was World Heritage Listed.

Dry To Dry : The Seasons Of Kakadu won an award in the 2021 Children’s Book Council Of Australia for “books which have the prime intention of documenting factual material with consideration given to imaginative presentation, interpretation and variation of style.

Written by Pamela Freeman this book explores the changing seasons of Kakadu – the Dry and the Wet, then back to Dry – and how this impacts on the animals and plants that live in the region. Liz Anelli’s illustrations are simple though easily recognisable even by younger readers.

Each page includes a simple storyline about the environment in its various stages and in a different font at the bottom of each page is a paragraph of factual information, though still in language for younger readers to understand.

Interestingly, although we label the seasons of Kakadu the Dry and the Wet our Indigenous people believe that there are indeed six seasons. This is important because following the seasons is vital for their food supply.

One of the greatest dangers to the natural environment of Kakadu is the Cane Toad, imported in the early 1900’s to combat beetles hurting our sugar cane industry and which are poisonous to our native birdlife and marsupials. A note at the end of the book gives thanks to “the native water rats who have figured out how to safely eat cane toads”.

This is one beautiful children’s book and if you are unable to visit the NT it isn’t a bad substitute. Young Harry Kilom just loves the baru – crocodiles.

( For Gum Trees And Galaxies Gaia/ Nature Reading Challenge ).

November In Books

Not a satisfying month for books. Could be my brain fuzz having to spend days dealing with a major roof leak, tradies and the insurance company.

Finished Nicole Moriarty’s You Need To Know, Small Acts Of Defiance by Michelle Wright and The J M Barrie’s Ladies Swimming Club by Barbara Zwitser. Anything else is a blurr.

Off to the local Library to listen to Heather Morris on Friday, author of The Tattooist Of Auschwitz, so hope I can get the head into gear by then.

With all the rain I’ve been enjoying the garden and preparing seedlings to put in the Little Community Library for Christmas. Pumpkin seedlings mainly : my small attempt to eradicate hideous plastic pumpkins imported from China for next November.

I’ve also rescued and groomed some bears in need of adoption for the Community Library. Recycling and Sustainability, one step at a time……


This weeks movie watch was The Magic Pudding, an animated version of Norman Lindsay’s 1918 Children’s Classic. Albert, the Magic Pudding, and Bunyip Bluegum the koala, are characters much loved by those of a certain vintage, right up there with the Seven Little Australians.


The movie, released in 2000, featured the voices of Sam Neill, John Cleese, Jack Thompson, Hugo Weaving, and Toni Collette. Top shelf. It didn’t sit well with me for numerous reasons, particularly the ocker accents, and I think the humour will be lost on the Little Person. I’ll stick to a long time favourite for baby sitting purposes : Cujo, the rabid Saint Bernard.

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Holly The Holstein and 11/11.

Despite disappointment earlier in the week I have had a win with a gorgeous rhyming book perfect for the likes of Harry Kilometres and other Little People.

Holly The Holstein is Russell Smith’s first children’s picture book with its roots going back to his childhood growing up on a dairy farm in Millaa Millaa in Far North Queensland. After completing an Arts degree Smith went on to graduate as an officer in the Australian Army, eventually retiring as a Colonel.  ( It’s a tenuous connection to the military but still should score brownie points with the son-in-law).

Holly is a dairy cow and when this book was published earlier in the year many dairy farmers were really struggling with floods and deregulation of the industry. In Far North Queensland where there were once over 200 dairy farms there are now only 38. Smith is therefore donating all profits from Holly The Holstein to assist dairy farmers doing it tough and has already raised in excess of $10k. 

Country kiddies have been dressing up as Holly The Holstein for this years Book Week which is good change from wretched Elsa and Bluey.

In other news, the Cleveland Cenotaph had a good crowd for the 11th of the 11th which was wonderful following the last two years of major restrictions.  It was heartwarming to see kindy kids taking in the proceedings; touch wood this will ensure these ceremonies will be commemorated for years to come.

Some Real Duds

The front cover of Red Lead – The Naval Cat With Nine Lives by Roland Perry grabbed my attention with the announcement   ” the legendary Australian ship’s cat who survived the sinking of HMAS Perth, Changi and the Thai-Burma Railway”.

A $1 investment – what could go wrong?

61 pages in and my intuition kicked in necessitating the need to research some military websites, including the Australian War Memorial and the Naval Institute.

Guess what? 

A work of fiction. Very misleading and disappointing. A total non-story.

The reality is Redlead, like many of the cruisers crew, did not survive the sinking of HMAS Perth and there was no Dan Bolt, the ex veterinarian who adopted the cat at sea.

Indeed one reviewer summed it up thus: “Finally in this case you can ‘judge a book by its cover’.  The photo on the front cover of a cat sitting in the gun barrel is not Redlead; it’s the ship’s cat of HMS Cornwall taken in 1933. Also the front cover wording stating the “cat who survived the sinking of HMAS Perth, Changi and the Thai-Burma Railway” is false.”

61 pages. What a time waster!

Next up, The Beach They Called Gallipoli by Jackie French, another $1 investment.

I’ve mentioned Jackie French AM , Australian author, previously. Not only is she a historian, ecologist and wombat carer, she was 2014–15 Australian Children’s Laureate and 2015 Senior Australian of the Year. Love her work, I really do.

Young Harry Kilometres, the grand child, is the product of a military family. Indeed, he was born in a rural and remote area of Australia because of his father’s military involvement. For overseas readers that means crocodiles, poison jellyfish, snakes galore, wild camels, and bison on the golf course. So little Harry is already ensconced in certain traditions. He’s been practising the manoeuvres to parachute out of a plane since he was three months old  and his library of army history is already enviable.

So I just had to pick this book up for Harry’s bedtime reading for his coming visit. Beautifully illustrated by Bruce Whatley with a sprinkling of vintage photos and Jackie French, writer of children’s books.

DEPRESSING

I appreciate that Gallipoli was not an uplifting experience however this book is not the kind of book to hand to a child as a learning tool. Jackie and Bruce were clearly on the red wine when they dreamt up this concept. I’m thinking an Art Gallery or Museum would have been far more suitable.

And you know what? Two lousy books in a row can destroy your day.

October Books and a Visitor

A great many books meandered through this house during October thanks to two local Rotary fundraisers. The two $2 Mystery Boxes that I purchased for the Little Community Library, each containing no less than twenty books, are stacked in the garage awaiting rotation. Although mostly exLibrary books there are many that have held my attention, including my favourite read for October : Fractured.

Written by now Australian lass and Psychiatrist, Dawn Barker, this debut novel is about a happy family who have just had their first child which results in infanticide. It looks at the differing viewpoints of all family members and is a confronting read. Her second book is about surrogacy and her third addiction and family breakdowns, so Barker is putting all her medical training to good use.

The TBR pile is breeding, along with the tomatoes, with the humid weather.

I’ve just finished the next book club read – The Newcomer by another Aussie lass, Laura Woollett. Based loosely on the real life murder of a Sydney woman on Norfolk Island (infamous as it was the Island’s first ever murder) this was another confronting read because of its ugliness and brutality, which is in total contrast to the island’s spectacular beauty. I didn’t like the book, though it has made me think. That is often said to be the sign of a good story , isn’t it?


N I.

Starting to get organised for a visit from the Little People : the Labrador and Harry Kilom. Anything located two foot or closer to floor level is being relocated to safer territory and I’m having wonderful fun going through my daughters’ old children’s books. Especially Koala Lou by Mem Fox having had a visit from Bruce over the weekend.

Always welcome, Bruce.

First 5 Forever

My local Library has a First 5 Forever program that caters to three age groups: babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.

First 5 Forever is a statewide program providing strong early literacy foundations for all Queensland children ages 0-5 years at which local libraries provide fun, free, family-friendly activities and resources to help make the most of a child’s first 5 years”.

So of course when I recently played the devoted Meemaw I booked 8 month old Harry Kilometres into two sessions of First 5 Forever, one outdoors at a local park and the other at the Library.

The outdoors venture was a bit of a disaster because of the weather. Bub had flown in the night before from remote northern Australia where at night he sleeps under a ceiling fan with the air conditioning on, and Brissie decided to emulate Melbourne with chilly winds and 8 degrees. He had to wear long pants for the first time in his life as well as socks and a beanie and was suitably unimpressed. And not a subtle beanie either, thank you Meemaw.

Our indoor venture was much more successful with sessions only 45 minutes in duration ( 30 in songs, movement, and stories and 15 in play) and more favourable climatic conditions.

Of course I bribed the little blighter with the promise of his first babychinno – which was another success.

During my recent travels I visited the Chinchilla Botanic Gardens.

Chinchilla is most commonly known as the ‘Melon Capital of Australia’, and plays host to a Melon Festival every second year in February. 

( Aside : Not a fan of Watermelon though I detest the waste of good food during this popular tourist festival. As for Rockmelon, also known as Canteloupe, why it is considered a complement to seafood has me stumped. What a waste of decent prawn meat.)

Located in the Western Downs Region of Queensland, Chinchilla is just on 300 kms northwest of Brisbane.  In 2020 its Parkland was announced as winner of the Park of the Year at the Queensland Parks and Leisure Australia Annual Awards.  It IS beautiful and caters for all demographics with a variety of facilities.

I was delighted when I came across this cute First 5 Forever bench seat to encourage our Littlest Readers. A wonderful initiative.

Books For Little Queenslanders

First 5 Forever is a family literacy program delivered by public libraries and Indigenous Knowledge Centres (IKCs) with the primary aim of providing strong early literacy foundations for all Queensland children aged 0-5 years. 

In the first five years of life a human brain develops at its fastest. Family life and early experiences are important for healthy brain growth. Research shows that simple things like talking, reading, singing and playing with children from birth have positive impacts that last a lifetime and this has flow on benefits for the whole community. 

The First 5 Forever program at my local Library includes a weekly indoor session for mums and bubs as well as library staff meeting at local parks and nature reserves and running these sessions from picnic rugs. I am so looking forward to taking Harry Kilom in a few weeks time to one of these:)

As part of the First 5 Forever program The State Library of Queensland recently published 12 books under the umbrella of The Stories For Little Queenslanders series.

One of the titles, The Cow That Swam Out To Sea, will resonate with anyone who remembers the 2011 floods in South East Queensland, and particularly the story about the cow that fell in the river at Lowood in the Lockyer Valley that floated down the Brisbane River. A true story, the cow was rescued 95 kilometres out in Moreton Bay, cold, wet and hungry.

I have so many mixed memories of the Brisbane floods. The one that never fades is that of catching one of the last trains out of Brisbane City with some work colleagues just before the transport system was shut down. Packed in like sardines with every square inch filled with people of all shapes and sizes I vividly remember hanging on whilst being squished up close and personnel next to a young man with his pet python hanging off his shoulders. I didn’t dare blink nor move. I have no recollection of even breathing for 16 train station stops.

Talking of Little People I put these in the Little Community Library in the local park today.

Bub’s Books For Xmas

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” — Albert Einstein

My daughter, Pocohontas, has already read six week old Harry Kilometres this years Booker Prize Winner. So of course I have been having great fun at local bookstores finding more appropriate literature for the child for Christmas.

This is Harry’s major Christmas parcel from his Meemaw:

I’m a firm believer that you cannot begin your Classic Movie education too early.

Aunt Cat Balou is gifting a copy of the movie Calamity Jane and a book about Audrey Hepburn. (Have I done well with my kids, or what!)

“You don’t have enough money to be considered eccentric. You’re just weird.” – my friend, Bernadette Mercer.

This one’s going into the babe’s Christmas stocking :

Harry’s Dad, a military boyo, has also been reading to young Harry : books on international conflict and aviation strategy.

And they think I’m weird…………..

NOTE :

Discovered a great website which encourages young girls to follow their interest in STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths. Go to http://www.amightygirl.com

For fairy tales starring clever and courageous girls, you can find over 180 girl-empowering books of fairy tales in A Mighty Girl’s “Fairy Tale Collection” at https://www.amightygirl.com/books/fiction/fairy-tales-folktales

If you’re looking for princess stories that break the ‘damsel in distress’ mold, A Mighty Girl’s “Ultimate Guide to the Independent Princess” collection features 100 books starring princesses who are smart, daring, and aren’t waiting around to be rescued at https://www.amightygirl.com/mighty-girl-picks/independent-princess

I’ll share these purchases soon with no guilt. Helping both the economy and the sisterhood.

This Week In Books

Firstly, my fave : A beautiful friend from the other side of the country sent me through the post a May Gibbs Gumnut Babies cardboard book, Goodnight Gumnuts to share with Harrison Miles ( born on October 7th) when he visits his Meemaw. You are one of the world’s sweethearts, Tenielle.

Peter Corris, Australian crime writer’s Lugarno. My home town and birth place of both daughters. Ok, not one of Corris’ best efforts and just 103 pages in length. Only one decent description of the suburb I felt with “ it was elevated and leafy, without any through traffic. Nice place if you had a good car and a swimming pool and didn’t mind being that far from the CBD. It looked like everyone living there would be much the same – comfortable and conservative -but I knew that wasn’t true ; there’d be secret drinkers and crossdressers and One Nation voters”.      

Cecila Ahern’s sequel to PS I Love You. Hated the original – loved the movie. Gerard Butler, Harry Connick Jnr and Jeffrey Dean Morgan – what’s not to love? Enjoyed this novel about adjusting to loss but not sure if it was because of the author’s story telling ability or more that my thoughts kept returning to the previously mentioned boyos. Probably the latter……

Had wanted to read Where The Crawdads Sing for months if only to learn more about crawdads. Imagined them to be like a yabbie. Bzzzzzzz. Wrong. I enjoyed this novel  though the American colloquialisms, especially about food, had me baffled. A good read.

Another good week for the Little Community Library with one of the local mummas painting and hiding rocks around the park for the Little People.

And great news! Further easing of COVID restrictions mean that Author Talks at my local library are recommencing. These are fantastic opportunities to learn what motivates writers and what makes them tick. Haven’t been disappointed yet.

Yee Haa!

Welcome To Spring

These cheerful Wattle Babies are the most good-natured of all of May Gibbs’  Bush Babies. Their bright yellow clothes brighten the bush on a Winter’s day. In Spring they love to go boating and swimming with their frog friends and have fun playing hide and seek with the baby birds. 

May Gibbs (1877-1969), author and illustrator, has captured the hearts and imaginations of generations of Australians with her lovable bush characters and fairytale landscapes. She is best known for The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

September 1st is Wattle Day in Australia.

I love everything about the Wattleit’s simply sensational.

My Wattle Sapling in flower for the first time