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Saturday, 13 October 2012

Review: Topsy Turvy World

The first Europeans to visit Australia, hundreds of years ago, were entering an entirely new world. An 'upside down' world . . . not only was Australia located at the bottom of the globe, but its land, its seasons, its flora - and most particularly its fauna - also seemed topsy turvy.

Some of the illustrations and paintings done by early visitors to Australia show just how confusing and 'unreal' our land appeared to be. Strange creatures with pouches and long tails, bills and webbed feet, long legs and teensy wings, hopped and scattered and climbed - clearly confuddling anyone who first saw them. Nothing like this had never been seen before.

It's no wonder so many odd paintings and drawings exist in the National Library's archives, of artists and botanists who weren't entirely clear on what they were seeing!

This stunning book by author Kirsty Murray is a compilation of animals based on the book Upside Down World: Early European Impressions of Australia's Curious Animals by Penny Olsen - made fully accessible and relevant to children.

Each creature covered in this book is beautifully rendered, with striking illustrations of animals like the echidna ('amongst the most curious and interesting of the quadrupeds yet discovered', according to zoologist George Shaw), along with snippets of information on the first encounters with said animal, quotes, true-life stories, interesting facts and statistics and - of course - a modern day photo so kids can compare just how wrong many artists once got it!

I particularly love the 'fast facts' which outline common names, scientific names, Indigenous names, habits, diet and life span. There's also a figure that shows how big each animal is compared to a 2-metre-tall man, and a map of where the creature can be found.

Beautifully designed and laid out, as the NLA does so very well, this is a truly stunning book that should earn a place in every child's home.

Title: Topsy Turvy World
Author: Kirsty Murray
Publisher: National Library Publications, $29.95 RRP
Publication Date: 1 October 2012
Format: Hard cover with dust jacket
ISBN: 9780642277497
For ages: 8+
Type: Information Book, Picture Book

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