Last month, I presented a list of my top Australian non-fiction at the Victorian CBCA’s Clayton’s night, in the lead up to the announcement of the CBCA shortlist. One of my top picks wasn’t submitted for the CBCA awards but it’s an important little book about a big topic that matters deeply to me and to most Australian children – insects!
The Little Things that Run the City by Kate Cranney, Sarah Bekessy & Luis Mata is the sort of book that would have changed my understanding of the world, if I’d read it as a child. One of the most important things this exceptional book does for young Australian readers is it gives them the gift of the language of their landscape. Australian children are inundated with information about European, Asian and American wildlife. It’s good to know about the wider world but it’s crucial that information books help children connect to and interpret their immediate surroundings.
Kids are fascinated by creepy crawlies but most information books for children about bugs are not published in Australia and don’t include common Australian insects. When I went to live in Europe, I always wondered why their cicadas were so quiet compared to ours. It was only when recently reading The Little Things that Run the City that I discovered that our Green Grocer Cicada is one of the world’s loudest insects.
Kate Cranney’s illustrations are magical and the bite size pieces of information accompanying both illustrations and photos introduce readers to thirty different insects found in Melbourne gardens.
I love the specificity of The Little Things that Run the City. Every Melbourne child should have a copy of this book available to them and that’s actually possible as it’s a free, downloadable pdf at the City of Melbourne’s website. Click the image of the book’s cover to get a copy. Though it’s great to be able to access this fascinating project so easily, the actual hardcover book is such a pleasure to hold, I highly recommend getting a physical copy. The book was produced as an outreach educational resource for the City of Melbourne as part of the Interdiscplinary Conservation Science Research Group at RMIT University. So it’s not widely available in bookshops but it can be purchased at the shops in the Melbourne Museum and the Royal Botanical Gardens.