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Review of ‘Ten Blue Wrens and What a Lot of Wattle’

Home » Review of ‘Ten Blue Wrens and What a Lot of Wattle’

Title: ‘Ten Blue Wrens and What a Lot of Wattle’
Author/Illustrator: Elizabeth Honey
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Themes: Counting, Australiana, visual literacy
Age Range: Early Childhood
Awards: Notable book, 2012 Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Award – Early Childhood; Shortlisted, 2012 Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Award for Young Children; Highly Commended, 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, Children’s Fiction; Shortlisted, 2012 Queensland Literary Awards

Click on title links or cover image to purchase.

ten blue wrens

I was one of the judges on the children’s panel for the Queensland Literary Awards in 2012. This book was shortlisted in these awards amongst some tough competition.

At first glance ‘Ten Blue Wrens and What a Lot of Wattle’ is one to add to the counting book genre, but author/illustrator  Elizabeth Honey has added so much more to this absolutely Australian book. This is a perfect book for gift giving, particularly for overseas visitors with young children, or Australian families living abroad.

Readers can count from one to a million, trillion and thrillion, and Honey has chosen some quintessential but not so obvious elements of Australian life to count. We can count 100 flies on a back, 12 hardworking kelpie legs, sauce smiles on a pie, as well as dots in an Aboriginal artwork and fireworks over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The illustrations have been created with acrylics sponged onto stencils and the front endpaper shows part of this process. The final endpaper is also used to great effect; with a number chart of sorts inviting the reader to go back through the book and re count the objects.  Excellent use of double page spreads makes this a visually stunning book and a treat to explore with young children.

Follow it up in the home, classroom or library:

  • Obviously lots of counting is going to come from a reading of this book. Can you make your own counting book filled with Australiana?
  • Aside from counting, consider the rhyming words, the Australian icons, the particularly Australian celebrations and the plants, birds and animals depicted.
  • Use the beginning endpaper to work out how Elizabeth Honey has created the illustrations. Use the same printing techniques to create your own picture.
  • Students I have read the book with have particularly liked the flies on the back, so Australian! Make or draw a back of a person. Have the class or your own child at home draw and cut out 100 flies. Great fine motor skills and counting skills. We had at least 12 counts and recounts of the flies until we were sure we had 100!
  • Using the same idea as above, recreate other scenes from the book.
  • The final endpaper of the book is an opportunity to recall what they have read. Go through each of the items and recall the page in the book. Create your own number frieze to hang in your classroom or at home.

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