5 Nov 2009


Meet Gecko, the lizard who lost his tail. He is the star of one of the few books that Leslie Rees wrote for young children of Jemimah's age, and it is just delightful. It's a book that you'll read again and again.

Youngsters of 4 or 5 will enjoy the entertaining story of how Gecko outwits crafty Jack Kookaburra, but it is older children who will really learn about the endearing gecko from this book. The gecko of our story is not identified exactly, and as Elizabeth Pope from The Australian Museum says in the Foreword, this allows children not only in Australia but also in many other parts of the world to meet and know the story's hero in person, for geckos occur outside as well as all over this large continent of ours.

Leslie Rees is that rare author, able to prevent his excursions into the realms of fantasy from interfering with the true facts. Children will learn about the behaviour of a gecko from this book, but they will have fun doing so. Rees is able to convey a lot of information in a short story too. Plus your kids will remember what they've learned. To me this defines it as a true Living Book.

Leslie Rees had an extremely successful collaboration with the illustrator Walter Cunningham. The illustrations of this book - as with all by this accomplished artist - are accurate in their detail whilst still maintaining their appeal for young children.

This next illustration says it all for me. In it you see Jack Kookaburra failing in his attempts to imitate Gecko's party trick of climbing up the walls and on to the ceiling:
"Well, if he can do it, I can too."

"Why not try?" said Gecko.

"Yes, try," giggled some of the other animals.

Jack Kookaburra did try. He fluttered his grey-brown wings and managed to stagger a few steps up the wall. He fluttered harder and nearly reached the ceiling. Then worn out, he fell back right in the middle of a brown puddle on the floor.

Sam Wallaby hopped over to pick him up. He wasn't hurt and everybody laughed and laughed. Jack didn't like that.

The book was written in 1944. Sometime around 1970 it appears that Walter Cunningham's illustrations went out of fashion, and the book was reprinted with new pictures by Tony Oliver. Here's the 70s style Gecko:

...and here's Jack in the scene described above:

This early book of Rees' is probably not his best. His titles for older children have been reprinted far more often than Gecko and convey considerably more information within their stories. Gecko on the other hand is a far more enjoyable read. You feel less like you are reading a text book and more like you are reading a fun story. A fun story with beautiful pictures and lots of true information.

When we read Gecko, Jemimah thinks she's getting a story and I think she's reading her Natural History text. Yes, we're both happy with this one.

Yeah, I know. It's out of print. Aren't they all? Abe has a few. Look for one illustrated by your choice of the two illustrators above. Personally, I'd go for Walter.


  1. I think Amelia would enjoy this story.

  2. Hi Jeanne,
    Now, where were you when my children were little? The books that you list are absolutely delightful.


  3. Hi Jeanne...yes I have read your post on all the mysteries before coming back to this one and my opinion is, 'NO' your book reviews are not boring, but I am guessing that maybe you didn't get more comments because your posted more after this one and most people (I think) tend to read the most recent post! Did that make sense?

    Anyway, we LOVE geckos in this household for Joshua use to catch them every night when we were in Gladstone a couple of years ago, so I ordered this book today!

    Thank you for sharing your books, I LOVE IT! Keep them coming! ALso I really appreciate the time and effort you put into writing about the books and why you chose them!

    Lot's of love xxx

  4. I personally love your book reviews (no, I won't pretend that I didn't read your "mysteries" post first).

    I think this is one of my favorite, actually. The illustrations are beautiful, and just the kind that I like. My kids love geckos, and always catch them at one park we often visit. They are so cute, and we are often tempted to keep them, but we always release them before we go home.

  5. I was thinking what a lovely book it is and then you said it's out of print :-( I am a big fan of good Australian literature and am happy for any suggestions and book reviews :-)

  6. Caz, there are a number at "Abe". Just click on the word in the post!

  7. Looks like a great book with lively, colourful pictures too! Thanks for posting about it Jeanne.

    PS. I can only speak for myself as to why people only comment on some posts and not others - I have the same thing, but on a smaller scale.

    For me, I don't often see all your posts and later realise I missed them....then there are times when I read them and use the links you've provided to do further research etc.

    Be rest assured your posts are of great value to all who read them Jeanne - whether they comment or not.


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