Review: Platypus Deep by Jill Morris and Heather Gall

Platypus Deep is the story of Orni the platypus and his search for a new place to build a den when his old home is destroyed by a savage storm.Author and conservationist Jill Morris likes to make plays on words with the names of her characters. The scientific name for a platypus is Ornithorhynchus Anatinus and upstream from Orni lives Anatina, feeding her babies; while downstream lives the old and fierce platypus, Rhyncus. A good way to introduce your students to the idea of scientific names and that they are important because there can be so many common names for the same thing.

Morris gives us a clear sense of the habitat of the platypus in her opening pages; In the ‘secret pool on a quiet creek,’ we meet sandpaper figs, fig parrots, butterflies, frogs, echidnas and yabby’s, which all share the pool with Orni. We learn what Orni eats and also the food web relationships between the other inhabitants of this little ecosystem. Later a dingo visits the pool and we get a sense that there are predators even further up the food chain.

Morris also shows us some of the adaptations and characteristics of the platypus and other animals. Anatina feeds her babies upstream, clearly mammalian, the snake soaks up the sun for warmth, and Orni and Rhyncus battle with their posion spurs as they compete for the pool downstream.

There is also a sense of changing landcape here, which fits in with the Earth and Space Sciences stream. There is the rapid change due to the storm, geological changes over long periods of time and the changes caused by the impact of humans and pollution. Morris sends a clear message here and her inner back cover states that ‘in 2005 the people of Maleny protested unsuccessfully against the building of a supermarket on the bak of Obi Obi Creek, the habitat of a large colony of platypuses. Illustrator Heather Gall lives near Maleny in Queensland.

Morris doesn’t let the science get in the way of the story-line and so it’s an enjoyable read on it’s own merits. It’s also a book that could be used on a number of different levels, even with older children as an exercise in drawing food webs.It’s particularly relevant at level 4, looking at interactions between organisms. Local and authentic content makes the exercise much more worthwhile.

Jill Morris has produced a number of books with conservation themes through her Greater Glider publishing. A review of her book ‘Green Air’ on this blog can be found here. You may also like to read a review at Aussie Reviews.

NATIONAL CURRICULUM LINKS (as from ACARA)

Biological sciences (Foundation)

Living things have basic needs, including food and water

  • recognising the needs of living things in a range of situations such as pets at home, plants in the garden or plants and animals in bushland

Biological sciences (Year 1)

Living things have a variety of external features

  • recognising common features of animals such as head, legs and wings
  • describing the use of animal body parts for particular purposes such as moving and feeding

Living things live in different places where their needs are met

  • exploring different habitats in the local environment such as the beach, bush and backyard
  • recognising that different living things live in different places such as land and water

Biological sciences (Year 2)

Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves

  • representing personal growth and changes from birth
  • recognising that living things have predictable characteristics at different stages of development
  • exploring different characteristics of life stages in animals such as egg, caterpillar and butterfly
  • observing that all animals have offspring, usually with two parents

Biological sciences (Year 4)

Living things have life cycles

  • making and recording observations of living things as they develop through their life cycles
  • describing the stages of life cycles of different living things such as insects, birds, frogs and flowering plants

Living things, including plants and animals, depend on each other and the environment to survive.

  • investigating the roles of living things in a habitat, for instance producers, consumers or decomposers
  • observing and describing predator-prey relationships
  • predicting the effects when living things in feeding relationships are removed or die out in an area
  • recognising that interactions between living things may be competitive or mutually beneficial.

Biological sciences (Year 5)

Living things have structural features and adaptations that help them to survive in their environment. 

  • describing and listing adaptations of living things suited for the Australian environment
  • exploring general adaptations for particular environments such as water conservation in deserts
  • explaining how particular adaptations help survival such as nocturnal behaviour, silvery coloured leaves of dune plants
  • comparing types of adaptations such as behavioural and structural

Earth and Space Sciences (Foundation)

Daily and seasonal changes in our environment, including the weather, affect everyday life.

  • investigating how changes in the weather might affect animals such as pets, animals that hibernate, or migratory animals

Earth and Space Sciences (Year 1)

Observable changes occur in the sky and the landscape.

  • exploring the local environment to identify and describe natural, managed and constructed features
  • recording short and longer term patterns of events that occur on Earth and in the sky, such as the appearance of the moon and stars at night, the weather and the seasons

Earth and Space Sciences (Year 4)

Earth’s surface changes over time as a result of natural processes and human activity .

  • collecting evidence of change from local landforms, rocks or fossils
  • considering how different human activities cause erosion of the Earth’s surface
  • considering the effect of events such as floods and extreme weather on the landscape, both in Australia and in the Asia region

Author:     Jill Morris

Illustrator: Heather Gall

Greater Glider, 2006

ISBN 9780947304744

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7 Comments

Filed under Biological Sciences Sub-strand, Foundation, Foundation, Level 1, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, Level 4, Level 5, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Review: Platypus Deep by Jill Morris and Heather Gall

  1. Valuable way to bring science to children in a logical and interesting manner, Cat. Well done!

  2. PS Just thinking how well my novel, ‘Secrets of Eromanga’ (Hachette Australia). It’s set on a dinosaur fossil dig) and would suit the idea of linking literature to science – every second chapter details the life of a small, Australian ornithopod dinosaur who lived 95 million years ago, a rich source of information about our unique palaeo-history. Teacher Notes for the book are available on my website.

    • Thanks Sheryl. I’m mainly concentrating on picture books but I’ll keep my eye out for a copy of yours. I’ve a book coming out in June with Andrew Plant on Australian dinosaurs so perhaps I could review yours at the same time. The books should complement each other nicely.

    • Hi Sheryl, yes I remember your book. We both subbed to Hachette at the same time with a dinosaur book. Mine is finally coming out in June. It’s been a long time coming but it’s been worth the wait.

  3. Thanks for the review, Catriona! I have had lots of other animal/science stories and non fiction volumes published by Greater Glider, Curriculum Corporation, Harcourt Brace Javanovich, Rigby Education Collins Dove etc. Great to see a work such as this one in which I collaborated with Heather (Lynne Tracey/Muir as designer) analysed under science education headings and study models.

    • Hi Jill, glad you liked the review. I also reviewed Green Air earlier so thankyou for sending me copies of your lovely books. I really enjoyed reading them and more than that, I enjoyed learning about these unique species and your quirky namings. I had fun doing some research for the review. May it bring sales and interest your way!

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