In the center of Australia lies a strange desert wilderness full of fantastic creatures. Long before it was a sea of sand known as the “Dead Heart, “ it was an actual sea. In poetic language, Oliver traces its evolution from the Miocene to present day, drawing fascinating parallels between two very different ecosystems and two very different cultural takes on its worth. The juxtaposition of the historic European perspective and the modern and Aboriginal understanding of the rich adaptations of life are provocative. Drawings and maps of European explorer Charles Sturt’s fruitless journey searching for an inland sea scroll along the bottom of pages and are accompanied by evocative quotes taken from his journal. Above are gorgeous, earth-toned illustrations, in Joyce Sidman-esque wood block style that detail the nature hidden in the barren landscape. Readers can search for the camouflaged animals and consult the keys, boxes, and sidebars to learn more about the improbable and fascinating creatures. An extensive bibliography, an index of animals with Latin names, an author’s note on her exploration of central Australia, and photographs of some of the more intriguing animals round out the book.
Melissa McAvoy, Live Oak School