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

Thursday 18 November 2021

Review: Searching For Cicadas

It's nearly time for those underground minibeasts to tunnel their way to the surface: cicadas! 

Last year, in 2020, we had a glut of cicadas here in the Blue Mountains. We found countless shells. We spotted many species. We heard the deafening buzz of cicada songs.

In Searching for Cicadas, a child and his grandfather camp out in order to go cicada-watching. At dusk, they see a cicada nymph wriggle from a small split in its shell and emerge as an adult cicada. Pure magic. The pair spy Green Grocers, Yellow Mondays and even Floury Bakers. What fun names! But will they spot a Black Prince, which are ‘as rare as hen’s teeth,’ according to Grandpa?

This delightful story sits side-by-side next to some top-notch cicada facts. Like, did you know that with the exception of Antarctica, cicadas live on every single continent? There’s also information about life cycle, behaviour and species. The facts are presented in a different font to the narrative, allowing readers to read the story first and come back and read the cicada information later. 

Lesley Gibbes has written a gentle story that illuminates the bond between a grandchild and grandfather. It’s good for the soul stuff. Their connection holds the whole story together. Cleverly, the child could be either a boy or girl so both genders can relate closely to the story. The author uses descriptive language, such as ‘buzz and whizz’, and imagery to make the story vivid. The rhythmic prose helps to unlock the magic of the factual information. It’s clear that there’s been a lot of research in the making of this book.

Judy Watson has elevated the picture book with her atmospheric illustrations. I adore them. In each spread, she has used a wonderful range of media such as, watercolour, ink, pencil and cont√©, as well as, techniques such as monoprinting, sketching and painting. Each element was carefully studied before it was interpreted in a scratchy style. The visually interesting, layered look was then created in Photoshop. Multiple perspectives were used throughout the story, drawing readers into each scene. You can tell a lot of thought has gone into each spread. The end papers portray the mysterious world of the bush floor. Take a moment to spot details in the leaf litter.

Searching for Cicadas is part of a non-fiction picture book series called Nature Storybooks by Walker Books Australia. Other books in the series include, Kookaburra by Claire Saxby and Tannya Harricks and Koala by Claire Saxby and Julie Vivas.

In 2020, Searching for Cicadas was shortlisted for the CBCA Eve Pownall Award for Information Books and won a Royal Zoological Society of NSW Whitley Award for Best Children's Story. Teachers and parents there are some fantastic resources for the book here: https://lesleygibbes.com/book-week-2020 

Searching for Cicadas will suit curious minds of all ages and nature lovers. Gibbes and Watson have spotlighted the magic of cicadas, leaving me in awe. Just remember, don’t keep them as pets. Enjoy learning how they live this one wild and precious life. 

Title: Searching For Cicadas
Author: Lesley Gibbes 
Illustrator: Judy Watson
Publisher: Walker Books Australia, $26.99
Publication Date: 22 July 2019
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781922244420
For ages: 5+
Type: Non-Fiction Picture Book