the wild and the not quite so wild

Long before the internet,before we even owned a television set, it was words and pictures in books that introduced me to the dangerousness, beauty, unpredictability and wondrousness of nature.

Pamela Allen is a popular prolific Australian writer of children's books. Her book Waddle Giggle Gargle! is funny, guaranteed to make toddlers chuckle. It teaches them a bit about the alarming habit of nesting magpies to swoop down on passing people to protect their bird-children. This is a realistic story and one which focuses on the nexus between people and wildlife in Australian towns and suburbs. It was published in 1996.

Back in 1919 how differently Arthur Rackham depicted similar birds. Wild, unknowable, ambiguous. Are they protecting or menacing the sleeping figure below? Is the figure really sleeping or is he dead? And the tree the ravens are perched on ... it has a character all of its own - ancient, gnarled, wise, sinister ...

The Twa Corbies (or The Two Ravens) from Arthur Rackham: “Some British Ballads” (1919)

Growing Good by Bernard Ashley and Anne Wilson is about the challenge of keeping natural spaces in a city increasingly dedicated to buildings and cars. A group of neighbours work together to create a garden. The community grows stronger together with the plants in the community garden. And the ending is happy because the planners realize gardens are good. The gardens contain all kinds of fruit and veg including a teeny bit of unplanned wild nature. In between the beans are old foxgloves, "from what was growing here before."


  1. I love that book title. Twa Corbies is a very dark tale / song and Rackham did do birds in lighter moods:


  2. I'm trying to think if any of the children's books in the current regular lineup are about gardens. I have Good Night Moon and Oh, The Places You'll Go mostly memorized. Guess I need to get a garden book into the mix, too!

  3. I think I would like all these books. I especially like that Rackman drawing. I remember reading my kids a book called The Hummingbird Garden - beautiful painted illustrations. I wonder if I still have that book...

  4. Love the sound of Growing Good.

    I think I would have definitely found the photos in the first book scary!

  5. just to let you know, I left a comment on an older post;-))

  6. Interesting, Catmint. I wonder if it was the authors' personality that was reflected in their work or if their publisher said, "Write a lighthearted fun tale." Versus "Write a dark scary fable." In other words, it was dictated by marketing or the authors' own vision.

    Anyway, I think I'd go for the lighter tale.

  7. Hi Hermes, thanks for the info. (I did think of you as I posted this stuff.) I know Rackham could be light but for some reason I find mysterious and dark more interesting and alluring.

    Hi VW,Oh the Places You'll Go is one of my all time favourites. For adults or children. I don't think of it specifically as a garden book but since it is a philosophy of living I think it fits with gardens and gardening.

    Hi JGH, I have never heard of The Hummingbird Garden, will look out for it.

    Hi Wendy, I guess the 3 books are so different, different people have different responses to them.

    Hi Alice, thanks for letting me know. Because of blotanical's new way of picking, comments often don't come through email so it's hard to track comment on older posts.

    Hi Grace, thanks for the interesting comment. I never thought about how professional writers may have to write just for the market and not just to express themselves.

    Cheers, catmint

  8. I think you might find Pamela Allan is a New Zealand writer.


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