I was so excited when I learned that this book had appeared - just weeks before I was headed for eastern Australia for the first time in my life. I ordered it immediately, and enthusiastically read the whole of the first half of the 544-page book straight through. It gave interesting and valuable information on the general physical backgound to Australia, habitats, a little on vegetation, and more on wildlife tourism, the environment, conservation, and then chapters on the natural history of each group of animals: reptiles, birds, mammals, and underwater creatures.
I noted the book's weight - 1.2 kg - and debated whether I would, after all, take it with me. Why put all that half-book of text on glossy paper? I also noted the poor quality of the illustrations, rather like, as an Australian naturalist in Tasmania commented, 'children's storybook pictures'.
The book fails not only on account of the poor illustrations, but because it tries to do too much. Take birds for example. Many are shown, (though apparently several that we saw are missing), but there is usually only one illustration of each. For serious identification, you need to see pictures of male, female and juvenile, and many not just in profile, but also in flight (which, let's face it, is often the only view one has of many birds.) And why so many pages devoted to underwater creatures? Unless you are a serious naturalist, you will not see these at all. (Aquariums I suppose.) If you're seriously into identification, you will need to buy separate guides for each kind of animal. For most of my holiday, having bought this book, I resisted paying a lot of money for another guide. But just days from the end, so frustrated, I gave in and bought the superb 'Field Guide to Australian Birds' by Michael Morcombe (published by Steve Parrish, who produces some wonderful books of photos in his own name as well). I shall just have to return to Australia to use it again!