Author: Margaret Warner 2011
Designer/Illustrator Gail C Breese
Front cover photo Brett Clifton
Targeted for ages 7 - 12 years, with all pages photocopy masters suitable for school use.
Author Margaret Warner has produced a new fun book and guide for teachers and children to learn about an animal that should be celebrated and honoured as endemic to Australia, and one of the world's most recognizable national symbols.
The kangaroos' ancient story starts in early history of Australia. It's written in a way children can easily understand.
A brief historical basis
Over 200 million years ago, the continents moved apart to form Australia, India, Antarctica, South America, Africa and the island of Madagascar. The story of our kangaroos starts with Ngamaroo, ancient ancestors of our modern kangaroos. Their story then moves on to the Giant Kangaroo, about one million and a half years ago.
The kangaroo's history is also contained in Aboriginal tales and mythology, "How the Kangaroo Got Her Pouch", a story of the Wiradjuri people.
Children can relate to the importance of kangaroos due to our Coat of Arms, with red kangaroo and emu holding up the six state crests. They are an important part of our unique national and natural heritage.
The remarkable story of our continent and unique flora and fauna starts as Gondwanaland, when the Earth was in its infancy.
Most macropods have hind legs larger than their forelimbs, large hind feet, and long muscular tails which they use for balance. The word macropod actually means 'big foot'.
Kangaroos consists of two family groups.
There are 45 species of kangaroos and wallabies.
The what is a kangaroo section identifies kangaroos on a social dimension. They have strong family bonds and they communicate with their young and each other with coughs and croaks.
Some of the more common species are described, with their birth, sizes, and life cycles, and threats. Each is accompanied by easily understood follow-up creative, cross-curriculum, language stimulating and thinking activities on pages that can be reproduced.
Numeracy skills are included, with magic squares, along with crafts, design challenges, riddles, research questions and reference to the Kangaroo Trail map at href="http://www.rootourism.com.au"> Roo Tourism where they can see all the species of macropods from the big Red Kangaroo to the small Musky Rat-kangaroo.
"Kangaroo footprints" - the title of the book - is interesting as it shows how these animals have adapted to give them the best chance of survival across Australia. Each part of the foot has its own function in helping it search for food, defend itself, give support and balance, and tread softly on the landscape.
There's a bit of nostalgia too, with "Skippy the Bush Kangaroo" who became an ambassador for Australia and our wildlife.
There are some kangaroo heroics, with Lulu the hero and Neil McCallum who saved a young kangaroos from the surf and Raymond Cole who saved a young kangaroo in Queensland's floods.
There's a section about Wildlife carers and the wonderful work they do for injured animals.
There is a further reading list and a certificate at the end for KIDS WITH KANGAROOS AWARD!
Answers are at the back.
Unfortunately,current propaganda and "management" of kangaroos is justified on the grounds that it is said that European settlement has been to the advantage of larger-bodied kangaroos. They have increased access to water and grazing land and are less preyed on by dingoes. Their numbers have increased, which can cause "detrimental environmental, economic and social impacts". Much larger and heavy-footed bulldozing by humans and livestock is conveniently ignored by those making these extreme claims.
These same animals have at least 16 million years of living in Australia's environment harmoniously, unlike those who align kangaroos with feral pest-species. Australia has changed irrevocably since 1788 when Europeans settled here with livestock and other deliberately introduced animals. The book is clear that there are many threats to kangaroos' survival, and gives a balance to what they might hear from the media.
A book about kangaroos for Australian children is one that is timely and should clear away some of the populist myths and political-historical propaganda that label our kangaroos as "pests" and little more than vermin to be "managed". It is a book full of information and fun activities that celebrate Australia's unique kangaroos.
The book is $20 with free postage in Australia and is available for order via the Kangaroo Book page on the website www.kangaroofootprints .com.au