Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Book Review: Red-Tail Recovery

Red-Tail Recovery is the third story in Australian author Emma J Homes’ wildlife series about Ruthie, a young wildlife ambassador and her commitment to helping save wildlife in Australia. Ruthie, her younger sister, Bel, and younger brother, Liam, travel around Australia with their parents (Kate and Tom) who are scientists, involved in wildlife research and animal projects. The family travels in a green and yellow bus, while the kids study via ‘lessons of the air,’ as well as learning from life experience about the wildlife in their home country. This time a new adventure beckons since Kate and Tom will be looking after a friend’s wildlife centre, The Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo Recovery Program, for a year while he is away. This will mean living in a house instead of a bus, and going to a real school. Will Ruthie and her siblings adapt? Even more importantly, given that the Red-Tails’ habitat is increasingly threatened by farming and encroachment upon their feeding and nesting environment, their numbers are dwindling fast. Does the Red-Tail have a chance of survival and will Ruthie and her family make any difference?

Beautiful, clear descriptions will transport young readers into Ruthie’s new life in the small town of Bailey’s Lake (pop. 1,400). They will also learn a lot about wildlife and the precautions taken to protect their habitats. Facts are cleverly inserted into the dialogue so eager wildlife enthusiasts will learn while they are enjoying the story, and appreciating Ruthie’s adaptation to her new environment. After all, haven’t we all been the new kid at school? Ruthie makes a new friend, Linsey, and gets involved in school sports and other fun stuff. Readers also read about wildlife smuggling, which seems like an odd thing for people to target, but it exists and that’s another danger young enthusiasts will learn about. Fans of Ruthie’s previous adventures will be happy to catch up on news about Womble, Ruthie’s pet wombat now living as a wild wombat, who was instrumental in solving a mystery causing frogs to die, and in solving the problem of mange in wild wombats (clever Womble!). Ruthie has a new pet in this story, a skink called Lulu!

Wildlife research is not armchair work and Ruthie and her family and Linsey get stuck in, another revelation for readers who think that being a wildlife scientist is easy. One does not study an animal or bird without going outdoors for fieldwork, the best way to study their habitat, their food, and the activities that the creatures engage in. The vocabulary and reading levels are good for all types of readers and the events of the story soon draw young readers into Ruthie’s world, her new experiences, and her reactions to the changes in their lifestyle.

Ruthie is such a lovely young role model for readers to emulate, and I really like how author Emma Homes manages to teach while creating a great and new adventure for many kids, who may never have had any close encounters with the animals and birds of their own country. The story shows very clearly how all of life is entwined, from destruction of trees to changes in environment, and how all this affects the cycle of wildlife; how each creature has its role to play in the ecological chain. I also liked the forward thinking that the story demonstrates, and how Bel’s idea of planting trees will help create a safe environment for the birds to flourish. As Ruthie realises, “Even a small step in the right direction was a difference they could all be proud of.” A small endnote gives readers more details about the Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo. The perfect gift for readers who love adventure and the outdoors, and young wildlife and bird enthusiasts.

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