PARK WATCH Article June 2024 |

Book review: Plantabulous! More A to Z of Australian Plants, Catherine Clowes. Illustrated by Rachel Gyan

CSIRO Publishing, 2024, 64pp,
ISBN 9781486317202

Pitched as an accessible, educational text for budding botanists aged 6-12, it is engaging and artful, if not a little over-ambitious.

Snatch a glimpse of any primary school yard and you’ll see planet six-year-old and planet 12-year-old are worlds apart. While Billie, my six-year-old, didn’t clock the alphabetised structure, arranging information in this tried and tested device is as compelling as any for young readers.

The illustrations are exquisite in their detail. Each plant is unpacked using tactile and evocative, yet biologically faithful, language. Inclusion of First Nations names and uses telegraphs the cultural significance of each entry. A lot of energy has gone into cross-referencing plant qualities, though this congests the text a little.

It veers wildly between engaging prose and assumed scientific knowledge. If another edition was on the cards, a distribution map per plant and a more dynamic organising of information into sections would further elevate this lovely book.

Activities are tethered to the geographical location of the 26 plants, showcasing the incredible diversity of plant life on this land. It also means that this broadness ends up limiting the number of activities you can do – though with so many garden escapees and botanical migration, a lot of these activities do apply outside of the plant’s original distribution.

Plantabulous is a delightful addition to a domestic library. For littler kids, having an adult or older child to help articulate the copy helps bring it to life. With custom teachers notes, it’s a promising resource for science/biological/First Nations inquiry in a school curriculum. For plant-fanciers, it’s a coffee-table treasure, ideal for idle browsing.

In Billie-speak ‘I like how it makes me learn’, but ‘the pictures are kind of fun but kind of not fun’ and ‘the words are too small for me, I like how some [plants] grow yummy stuff and cool flowers’.

Jessie Borrelle, Digital Engagement and Communications Manager, and Billie (age 6)