Reviews /


Authored by Claire Saxby
Illustrated by Jess Racklyeft
Published by Allen & Unwin

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This is a beautifully poetically written and charmingly illustrated book by Claire Saxby, suitable for a wide age range: for younger readers it follows the life cycle of an iceberg in the Antarctic and draws them in to identifying the wildlife that make their homes there; for older readers the richly coloured illustrations will develop their sense of awareness of how global warming is impacting now upon the landscapes that we take for granted. We often think of the Antarctic in shades of blue and white, but Jess Racklyeft’s remarkable use of colour really demonstrates the depth and richness of what really exists there using luminous layers of watercolour and also collage to further create depth, movement and atmosphere. The fold out pages are an added bonus which enhances the creative approach of the narrative.

Taking an iceberg as the main character is a unique idea: we follow the iceberg in the spring as it watches penguins trek across the ice to their winter homes and senses krill stirring underneath the ice. With summer arriving the iceberg sees humpback whales spiral and orca gather. The iceberg moves too, ever shrinking as the sun softens its edges and undersea currents wash it from below, perhaps an ominous warning of the impact of climate change? When autumn arrives with cooling temperatures, the sea changes and the iceberg is trapped in the ice for the winter freeze. When spring returns, the iceberg drifts into a sheltered bay and falls, at the end of its life cycle. But then the reader is drawn to the ending pages where out in the ocean, an iceberg shears from a glacier and settles to the sea, beginning the cycle all over again.

This is a narrative nonfiction book that can be read aloud together or be absorbed independently. The language is beautifully and poetically phrased. The plethora of creatures that inhabit the landscape: orcas, seabirds, seals and whales, are interwoven into the narrative, emerging into an exploration of life cycles, food chains, seasons, migration and ecosystems which are completely accessible to children aged 5 and upwards, although support will be needed to access much of the vocabulary for the younger readers. Usefully, the book ends with the author’s note explaining the effects of climate change on the Arctic and Antarctic regions, as well as a map and a glossary.

This is a book that will be read again and again, and hopefully will inspire young people to explore issues around climate change and global warming without intimidating them; the postscript leaves us with a gentle yet powerful plea to respect and protect the natural world. I can’t recommend this enough and wouldn’t be surprised if it’s nominated for many awards.