Secrets of the Saltmarsh 

By Claire Saxby; illustrated by Alicia Rogerson 

CSIRO Publishing, 2023 

isbn 9781486317141 (hbk)  

It’s not every day that you think of, or use the words ‘salt marsh’. Wetlands, yes, vaulable and quickly disappearing habitats,  a habitat type that we are losing each year to drainage to make way for farmland. However the specific label of ‘saltmarsh’ is not in your roadside cafe.  

To clarify, Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides. 

Salt marshes provide many very useful benefits as a ‘border’ environment – not purely water, not dry land – they filter pollution from the water and provide food and shelter for numerous species of birds, fish, mammals, and shellfish. In the United States, for example, given the wildlife productivity and habitat diversity in the area of ‘Scarborough Marsh’, makes it ‘the most significant of the State of Maine’s coastal Focus Areas. This book puts the saltmarsh – and its many perhaps less-than-visible and hence ‘secrets’, front and centre. 

Rather than boring non-fictional texts, It does so using quite lyrical phrases which are almost poetic. “I am wet and salty… . Some of my plants grow only here. I feed and shelter many animals… . Each day, ocean tides fill and empty me… . I am land and water. I need sunshine and rain. I clean the air and the water. I store carbon.” For anyone who doubts the usefulness and numerous benefits of the saltmarsh, this book is happy to set the record straight. 

Author Claire Saxby is renowned for simple, yet highly evocative languaged volumes describing parts of the natural world for readers of all ages, but especially younger ones. In her work Iceberg, the writing is “sophisticated; facts and technical vocabulary are lyrically combined with beautiful description.”

Saxby says “Non-fiction and narrative non-fiction stories need research.” This research is, to me, what sets Secrets of the Saltmarsh apart from being just another nice nature picture book. “I love writing, even when I am gnashing and wailing and moaning that I will never get it right.” Here, Saxby got it right for the Saltmarsh – and I therefore highly recommend this young-person’s beautiful text for all readers.

Reviewed by Henricus Peters 

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