For those who know me well, I am a bit obsessed with Tasmanian tigers, or Thylacines. They are my home state's emblem and also our equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster, except that these amazing creatures actually existed, or for many, still exist.
Aleesah Darlison and Shane McGrath's new book, Stripes In The Forest (Big Sky Publishing, HC ISBN: 9781925275704, 2016) is a strong story that travels with the mythical Tasmanian tiger, teaching us through story about the demise and threatened existence of these once feared creatures.
The beautiful illustrations depict the tigers in an accurate but simplistic way, capturing their movement and their stance in a very believable style. McGrath has certainly caught the essence of these creatures and the illustrations stand well with the text in bringing different aspects of the story to us.
Darlison uses powerful text that doesn't shy away from the truth. She uses it with creativity, presenting a sad story in a way that offers hope, telling the story from the perspective of the thylacine and her journey to escape danger and to survive humanity. Her research is demonstrated in her story telling as well as in the interesting facts that feature at the end of the story.
I love stories that end with hope and this book offers that. With an opportunity to review our past mistakes and to cause us to reconsider our present day decisions, books like this will empower younger readers to become adults with a caring and informed discernment of our environment.
With National Threatened Species day being held annually on September the 7th, which is the day we commemorate the death of the last known thylacine in captivity and possibly the wild, this book will not only be a wonderful educational tool, but a story that we can revisit to remind ourselves about this amazing creature and the story it carries with it.
I recommend it is one that lives on your bookshelf.
'I am the last of my kind. Or am I?'
(Reviewers note/confession: As a reviewer I need to be impartial and honest about the books I present to my readers. In the Australian Children's and YA publishing industry, most creators know each other and sometimes we know each other quite well. Often we review books created by our friends and peers (this is hard to avoid) and I endeavour to maintain a professional approach to this task. My opinions of this book and others I review are not because of friendships but from a genuine response to great literature for children.)
There is nothing like a spanner in the works, something that makes us take a step back and think hard about our circumstances, something that challenges us and the way we think and view ourselves. Here is a book that is a spanner, an effective one, a tough one that doesn't shy away from realities that many refuse to consider or want to know. Are you up for that challenge?
AUSTRALIA TO Z by Armin Greder, (Allen & Unwin, ISBN: 978 1 76011 3186, 2016), is in my 'picture book toolbox'. It is a tool to help me create brave stories, to not be shy from truths or to gloss over facts. It is a picture book that calls us to be brave, honest and to get down to business. Yet it is an alphabet book, one that hides it's intense honesty behind simplicity that can't help but draw you in.
This is not a book for the very young, it certainly isn't designed to teach your toddler their A to Z's. It is, perhaps Greder's attempt to re-educate older readers about our Australian A to Z's, our culture, what it has become, and who we see ourselves as.
I LOVE IT!! (sorry to shout).
Thank you Armin Greder for creating a book of simple truth. It will stay forever on my bookshelf, and it will continue to be taken down and shown to all and sundry. It has wit, it has grit, it has humour, it has sadness and it has grief, yet it is done with reverence and slighty discomforting honesty.
Greder's illustrations stay true to his wonderful strong and energetic style. His use of block colour and ink creating simple, almost 1950's reminiscent colour play, drawing the older audience in. There is nowhere to hide. The images are blunt and to the point. My favourite pages, if I dare to choose as they are all so brilliant, are A & B: Aborigine and Boat People, R: Rupert, W: Waltzing Matilda and the final double page spread of Advance Australia Fair.
This is a 'to have' book. Ask at your local bookstore if they have it and if not, why not? Then if you have to order it in, do so, then show them the book before you leave. This is essential reading, our basic, truthful Australia A-Z.
Whilst not a book for younger readers, this would be a great book to share with discerning middle grade and high school students and adults.
Be brave. Get your copy now.
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Books that need to read, handled, loved and shared. Books that bring joy, hope, challenges and journeys.