Review of ‘The Waterhole’

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Review of ‘The Waterhole’

For a few years I have been doing some tutoring work at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and have greatly enjoyed sharing my passion (some would say over-excitement) for quality children’s literature with students who are studying early years education. Last semester I mentioned that I would love to showcase some of the children’s literature reviews which the students completed as part of an assessment item, so for the next few days I will be posting reviews sent to me by students and republished with their permission.  

I’m starting with a review by QUT student Anjii Bennett, of ‘The Waterhole’ by Graeme Base. Published by Penguin Books Australia.

To add these books to your home, school or library collection click on cover or title links.


Graeme Base is an internationally acclaimed author who is considered one of the world’s leading creators of illustrative texts (Penguin Books Australia, 2014). Like many of his creations, The Waterhole has won and been shortlisted for numerous awards. It is a simple narrative that combines the storyline with elements of counting and puzzle. Animals from all different countries and environments come to drink from the same waterhole, which is beginning to dry up. Each page displays a different numeral and amount of animals, but all are present at the end when the rain replenishes the waterhole once more.

The simplicity and predictability of the storyline engages text participant practices (Luke and Freebody, 1999) as children draw connections between the number name, numeral and the visual representation. There is only a minor amount of print on each page so the storyline largely relies on the illustrations to convey plot depth. The incredible level of illustrative detail is essentially what defines this text as so much more than just a basic ‘counting book’.  The setting and inclusion of diverse animals that aren’t traditionally “Australian” connects the children to a new world, expanding their knowledge and imagination (Weitzman and Greenberg, 2002).

The Waterhole App is another way for students to experience the book and can be purchased here for iPad or here for iPhone or click on the image below.


Classroom Use

  • Download The Waterhole App on an iPad (here) or iPhone (here) and allow children to digitally interact with the different activities that bring the book to life
  • Use a concept map to draw out key descriptive words for some of the animals (based on their illustration and their dialogue). ACELT1581: Identifying some features of characters and how particular words and images convey qualities of their nature (ACARA, 2014).
  • Guide the children to create a “Who am I” for their favourite animal in the story. ACELY1660: Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning about key events, ideas and information in texts (ACARA, 2014).
  • Design cards that display a numeral and illustration from the book and use in mathematical activities – e.g. jumble the order and have the children rearrange into correct sequence 1-10
  • Discuss the issue of the “disappearing” water and have children draw and describe the basics of a water cycle. ACELT1586: Recreate texts imaginatively using drawing, writing, performance and digital forms of communication (ACARA, 2014)

Reference List

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2014). Year 1 English Content Description. Retrieved March 20, 2014, from

Base, Graeme. (2001). The Waterhole. Melbourne: Penguin Books Australia.

Luke, A. and Freebody, P. (1999) A map of possible practices: further notes on the four resources model. Practically Primary 4(2), 5-8. Retrieved from Queensland University of Technology Course Materials Database.

Penguin Group Australia. (2014). Graeme Base. Retrieved March 20, 2014, from

Weitzman, E. and Greenberg, J. (2002). Pave the Way for Young Readers and Writers. Learning language and loving it: a guide to promoting children’s social, language and literacy development in early childhood settings, 325-372. Retrieved from Queensland University of Technology Couse Materials Database.

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  1. Senga on Mar 3, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    Thanks for letting me know about the app. It looks like it will appeal to my preschooler and 8 year old. There’s also a lovely Animalia app!

    • Megan Daley on Mar 3, 2015 at 9:06 pm

      Yes I saw that Animalia one today too! I got both!

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