This week we meet wildlife ecologist and author, Gary Luck, where his years of experience studying Australian native animals is evident in the story of Melody Finch – a magical adventure with a strong environmental message.
One of my favourite children’s books was The Lorax by Dr Suess. With its strong environmental message, The Lorax began my life-long love of nature, and a desire to protect it from harm. Eventually, this saw me become a Professor of Ecology. However, after 25 years in Academia, I began to feel I was living in an echo-chamber. Attending scientific conference after conference to present data on the [often] dismal state of our biodiversity, felt like preaching to the converted. I longed for another way to reach people about the beauty of nature and the need to protect it. A chance online meeting with another author – Ian Boyd from the CBCA-SA Branch – who turned out to be someone from my childhood hometown, started me on a new journey writing eco-fiction for children.
Our first effort – Melody Finch – tells the story of a young girl living in Charleville Qld who finds out her grandmother must sell her beloved riverboat in the Coorong because of the drought. After experiencing a magical storm, Melody turns into a Diamond Firetail Finch, and then meets two frog spies from the secretive group ‘Infrognito’ who tell her big rains are coming and will break the drought. Melody has to get word to her grandmother not to sell the boat, but how can she do this when she’s turned into a bird?
So begins Melody’s journey from Charleville to the Coorong following some of Australia’s major rivers. The book covers environmental themes such as climate change, drought, species migration, pest animals and wildlife-fisher conflicts. We tried to do this in an informative, but entertaining way to engage with readers aged 8-12 years. The main focus was on telling a compelling story, and building the environmental themes into this, rather than the other way around.
Our next effort – The Last Firedog – will take the same approach, highlighting the impacts of bushfires on humans and wildlife. Set here in Tasmania, it follows a Tassie devil and his quoll companion on an adventure through the Ben Lomond National Park.
Dr Gary Luck
Wildlife Ecologist, Author, Nature Steward
Discover more about Gary, co-author Ian Boyd, and this first book in the series at: Spirit of the Earth Books
Editor’s note: Gary also writes for adults under the pseudonym of G. W. Lucke. Look out for the Relevation Trilogy: When Darkness Descends, At the End of Everything, and She Will Rise (out mid 2023).