Lucky and Spike by Norma MacDonald

Have you ever wondered what life is like out in the desert of Australia where the Spinifex grass grows and the stars shine all over the night sky?

Through the eyes of two cute hopping mice – Lucky and Spike – you and your young readers will see what they get up to each night as they search for food and escape from hungry predators!

Every night Lucky and Spike enjoy the spinifex seeds leftover from the local women who grind them to make bread but as we find out, they are not the only ones who are in search of food.

Lucky and Spike need to use their quick legs to escape a hungry feral cat and a barking owl but with the help of the camp dog and the sharp spinifex grass, they escape.

Norma Macdonald’s illustrations highlight the colours of the desert and the people who live there. The animals are full of life and we can see their movements over the pages as they hop, fly and run throughout the night.

There is so much to enjoy about this book and so much to learn, it is a must for anyone interested not only in the diverse landscapes, people and animals of Australia, but also the need for better solutions for native species.

The hopping mouse lives in Australia in small pockets of sand dunes, grasslands, gibber plains, heaths and open forest .   

They are on the vulnerable species list and are closely monitored by different conservation groups around Australia. Feral cats are a huge problem due to their ability to hunt the mouse with little detection. Other feral animals who roam free also play a role in the degradation of soil and small grasses – needed to provide safety and shelter.

Lucky and Spike is a fun book to read for younger children but also one which can be used for older readers to explore further into different desert animals.

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So what else can you do with this book?

Sustainability

Look at the final page in this story and read what Norma has written about feral cats. Explore the different organisations who are trying to cull these creatures and the different ways they are doing this.

Visual Arts and Artists.

Explore the art works by Norma MacDonald and other books she has written ( Spinifex Mouse by Magabala books)

Literacy

Find the verbs used to describe how the animals move around. Create a list of other verbs these different animals might use during the night and then during the day.

Science

Research further about Spinifex Hopping mice and Barking owls.

Discover how cats become feral.

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The great lizard Trek by Felicity Bradshaw and Norma MacDonald

Written by Felicity Bradshaw and illustrated by Norma MacDonald, an Aboriginal Yamatji artist, The Great Lizard Trek is an excellent addition to the science, geography and sustainability curriculum in classrooms .

It is also a wonderful book for family homes where nature lovers will delight in looking at the detailed illustrations, the maps and the reasons why we need to care more for the world we live in.

The Great Lizard trek takes us on a journey from the north to the south coast of Western Australia. Along this journey we meet the different types of lizards who live in this part of the world and learn their indigenous name and the indigenous country they come from.

Not only do we learn about these lizards we also learn that they are having to move from the places they have always lived because of climate change. Many lizards cannot cope well with extreme heat, lack of water, too much water or lack of shelter. And we often forget that reptiles play just as an important role in the ecosystem as mammals and marsupials do – not as cute and cuddly so they just don’t get the attention.

We learnt a lot about different lizards and were especially surprised by Goannas and how important temperature was for the development of their eggs. If the eggs get too hot – all the babies will be girls and this is a big problem for the future.

The Great Lizard Trek is a book you can read in one sitting or one you can take your time with, drawing on information, flipping to the maps included at the back and the from of the books and doing a bit of your own extra research.

The story is engaging as are the lizard characters we meet. The dialogue between the characters adds lots of fun to these reptiles that often get ignored!

Norma MacDonald’s illustrations are highly detailed and the background for each lizard is a reminder of where they live and the conditions they live in.

Reptile’s are amazing creatures that live in Australia – and we have so many of them. The Great lizard trek is a great wake up call for all readers to see how human actions are having huge ramifications on the animal world.

Luckily for these lizards the outcome seems to be good – but will it always stay this way? Will there be a part two? I’m not sure if the part two will be as positive.

The Great Lizard Trek is an excellent book to discuss climate change from a different angle, various reptiles and to learn more about indigenous language, culture and country.

There are some great teacher notes here: https://www.publish.csiro.au/book/7807/#forteachers 

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