'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Saturday 18 January 2020

Review: Windcatcher: Migration of the Short-tailed Shearwater

Every April, thousands of short-tailed shearwaters, lift off from their colony on Griffiths Island, Victoria, to begin a 30 000 kilometre migration from Australia to the Arctic Circle. A month later, the young chicks also leave the colony and begin the same migration, facing many dangers to reach the Arctic Circle in June or July. By August, birds leave the northern feeding grounds and head for home, arriving back to the colony in September, where eggs are laid and the cycle continues.

In Windcatcher: Migration of the Short-tailed Shearwater, by author, Diane Jackson Hill, and illustrator, Craig Smith, we follow the journey of Hope, a shearwater chick given the banding label 888. While the narrative aspect of the story is fictional, the description of the events occurring during the annual migration of these birds is based on factual colonies and experiences. An outline of facts about short-tailed shearwaters is also presented in the final pages of the book, including information on their appearance, breeding, migration pattern, dangers and their protected status. Comprehensive Teachers' Notes are also available from the publisher.

The story begins with Hope's mother, returning from the north to locate her burrow in the colony. There she lays an egg, from which Hope later emerges. As Hope grows, she becomes stronger until one day she catches the wind and begins her migration, along with all the other fledglings. Through the story, we see some of the challenges faced by these birds every year, including hunger, storms and the harmful consumption of micro-plastics (masquerading as food) in the sea.

When Hope and the other fledglings are accidentally ensnared in fishermen's nets, while resting in a calm bay north of the Equator, their desperate attempts to free themselves are assisted by the fishermen, who identify the banded shearwaters and report their location to authorities.

By providing a perspective through Hope's eyes, the author and illustrator have created a story with emotion and tension where we care about Hope and the other fledgling chicks, as the wind lifts them, and their instincts draw them onward.

From a tiny island in the Southern Ocean, a light house beams, and Hope flies home.

Title: Windcatcher: Migration of the Short-tailed Shearwater
Author: Diane Jackson Hill
Illustrator: Craig Smith
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing, $24.99
Publication Date: 17 October 2019
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781486309870
For ages: 5 - 12
Type: Picture book