Tuesday, May 28, 2024
HomeCultureBooksNaturopolis

Naturopolis

Naturopolis
Deborah Frenkel (author) and Ingrid Bartkowiak (illustrator)
Storytorch, $26.95 (HB)

“In the city, nature can feel far away – but is it?”

This question lies at the heart of Naturopolis – a new, creative non-fiction picture book for readers in years K to 6.

The book’s elegant, double page spreads both describe and explore the natural phenomena found in “the great grey city” and children are drawn to ponder a creature in the garbage, a river in the gutter, a cave on the underpass, a meadow in the footpath, a glade in a laneway, a woodland in the wires and more.

As the children look and listen closely, lyrical phrases like “feathery fronds”, “seeds spun away with the wind”, silence “easily bruised”, a “quick, slick trickster” and gems “as gentle as breath” are used to evoke feelings and intricacies relating to the flora and fauna illustrated.

While Deborah Frenkel’s words are often poetic, Ingrid Bartkowiak illustrations leave no doubt that the creatures and plants described are in a city – on kerbsides, near drainpipes, peeping from cracks in the pavement, across rubble and in the eaves.

The patches of green and growing things are scattered, not dense, and yet, early in the book readers are entreated to look with care because they “may find a forest”.

It is on the final pages that we realise the ant (Iridomyrmex purpureus) depicted in each spread – and who has been leading us through these scraps of wilderness – has in fact led us to a “forest” … of sorts. It’s an even more invisible world that lies beneath our skyscrapers and city streets – a world of intricate organisation and burgeoning population.

I saw this ending as a nod to the tenacity of nature and a pointer to the hubris of humans who think our world is pre-eminent and our infrastructure and organisational ways are more potent and deserving than those of other species.

It reminded me of how quickly a jungle will grow up in tropical places where buildings are abandoned; the foliage covering the bricks and steel – making it harder and harder to see that there was ever any human habitation there at all.

I really enjoyed Naturopolis – and think it’s been beautifully and thoughtfully put together. The story is evocative, the illustrations are harmonious and the bite-sized factual information about species (on the page) and the glossary of the fauna and flora (at the back) will help children understand more details of the natural world.

My hope is that the book is a stepping stone – a way to intrigue city children about the nature that is surviving and thriving around them but is often overlooked.

A further step would be to encourage (older?) readers to ask why they have to look so hard for the green shoots and traces of the insects and animals around them; why concrete, brick and bitumen have replaced forests and why habitats have been disrupted to create houses and workplaces for humans; what it would take to plant more trees and flowers in our urban environments, to cultivate forests and havens for animals in the heart of our cities, to create houses, offices and transport that are safe and conducive for humans and nature to better coexist?

I read a news story today that said more and more Australians have never planted a plant and don’t understand how pollination works.

If you want to make sure this isn’t your kids, grab Naturopolis – and use it to kickstart their journey of discovery of urban flora and fauna. Discuss with them early and often how humans depend on plants, insects and animals to survive. Encourage them to start a garden “between the cracks”.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

spot_img
- Advertisment -spot_img
- Advertisment -spot_img

Seen on the Green

Gumeroy was born in Moree, near the Mehi River. He had a “typical country upbringing” which included hunting, fishing, and sports.

Redfern Community Centre – celebrating 20 years

REDFERN: The 20th anniversary of RCC was celebrated on April 20, 2024, with Councillors (Waskam) Emelda Davis and HY William Chan being joined by Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo for the cutting of the cake.

Native Foodways – ‘Baking is one part of what we do’

Native Foodways is a First Nations owned and led social enterprise partnering with people from communities across Australia.

Can the Waterloo South People and Place Plan deliver?

Homes NSW Portfolio (formerly LAHC) has placed its Draft People and Place Plan on its Waterloo South site for comment until the end of May.

Why we love our pets

We all know that pets play an important role in our lives and we love them for many reasons. They are companions, supporters, don’t judge us and are loyal.

Living with dementia – a carer’s journey: 4. Progression

A year after the dementia diagnosis, Stuart was reasonably stable, but his cognition and memory started to deteriorate. He wasn’t able to put the rubbish in the colour coded bins, flooded the bathroom by leaving the tap on, misplaced house keys.