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

Thursday 16 September 2021

Review: Backyard Birds

Fly free with our native feathered friends in Backyard Birds by Dr Helen Milroy and celebrate their majesty and splendour. 

Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She was not only Australia’s first Indigenous doctor and psychiatrist but also AFL’s first Indigenous Commissioner. 

Here we celebrate her work, Backyard Birds, which was shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards. Also by Milroy is Backyard Bugs.

In a riot of colour and sound, Backyard Birds brings birds to life and will have you dancing, prancing and singing along with them. Some of the birds like the kookaburra were already familiar to me, while others like the ‘twenty-eight’ were excitingly new. The twenty-eight is the colloquial Western Australian name for an Australian Ringneck parrot, so named because its cry sounds like ‘twenty-eight’. 

Writing sparse, rhyming text, Milroy uses the rhythm of words to draw readers into the book. A few near rhymes, such as ‘laugh/bath,’ are slightly jarring but not so much as to take attention away from the flow of the story. In the text, the actions of the birds are accented to enhance meaning and provide emphasis. 

The illustrations seem to vibrate and captivate me with their aliveness. Each boldly coloured and patterned artwork is richly influenced by the artist’s cultural heritage. The repetition of colour helps tie the spreads together. Stretching from dawn to dusk, the end papers denote the change in light.

This lively and joyful text is well suited for littlies but is also a great conversation starter for older kids, and includes teaching notes for classroom use. Backyard Birds reminds me of Busy Beaks by Sarah Allen but for younger kids. It is a lovely size for little hands and would make a great gift for budding bird lovers and overseas loved ones.

As a bird nut myself, Backyard Birds has in fact encouraged me to sign up for the Aussie Backyard Bird Count which runs annually in October.  

Birds are such a source of wonder and solace with the power to connect us to the natural world. Right at this moment, wattlebirds have nested in our hedge, and I can hear the chirps of some babies. I am utterly enthralled by them. When we feel connected, we are more likely to want to preserve our wonderfully diverse environment. I think this book is just what we need.

Title: Backyard Birds
Author: Dr Helen Milroy
Publisher: Fremantle Press, $19.99
Publication Date: 31 March 2020
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781925816563
For ages:
Type: Picture Book