Penelope the Mountain Pygmy Possum, by Gordon Winch & Stephen Pym

Penelope looked down the mountain, but Percy was nowhere to be seen.
‘Where’s that Percy?’ she thought. ‘He should be coming back by now.’

Penelope the pygmy possum wakes from her winter hibernation, looking forward to the return of her mate, Percy, who has spent the winter with the other males away from the cold of the mountains. But there is a problem. Over the winter roadworkers have built a new road, and now it is blocking the path of the male possums. Luckily, Rick the Ranger has a solution, and soon the males are using a new tunnel under the road to get home. Penelope and Percy are reunited.

Penelope the Mountain Pygmy Possum is a cute picture story book which fictionalises the real events surrounding the building of a ‘tunnel of love’ for male pygmy possums to safely leave and return from the Snowy Mountains during the colder months, while the female possums remain on the mountains and hibernate. The story gives young readers the chance to learn about the pygmy possum and the threats to its existence. Illustrations show realistic landscapes, roadworks and wildlife, though the possums are partly anthropomorphised for narrative purposes.

Educational and entertaining.

Penelope the Mountain Pygmy Possum , by Gordon Winch & Stephen Pym
New Frontier, 2016
ISBN 9781925059595

The Rescue Ark by Susan Hall, ill Naomi Zouwer

The children gazed gloomily all around,

Oh dear! Oh dear!

Waste and rubbish littered the ground,

Oh dear! Oh dear!

The land was polluted, the rivers all dry,

with their habitats ruined the creatures would die.

So the kids decided to build an ark

To save all their animal friends.

The children gazed gloomily all around,

Oh dear! Oh dear!

Waste and rubbish littered the ground,

Oh dear! Oh dear!

The land was polluted, the rivers all dry,

with their habitats ruined the creatures would die.

So the kids decided to build an ark

To save all their animal friends.

The children are concerned about the impact of humans on the environment and the challenges this poses for animals displaced or threatened by humans and their activities. So they build an ark, and load it with as many endangered Australian animals as they can. They set them off to sea and then spend their time cleaning up and repairing the land. Eventually they deem it safe to bring the animals home again. The text is set to the rhythm of ‘The Ants Go Marching’ and illustrations are presented on coloured pages as if looking through a telescope, with the action spilling beyond the edges of the circle. Images are a combination of painting and collage. Final pages include images from the NLA collections and information about the animals featured.

NLA are producing a number of books for children which use images from their collections. ‘The Rescue Ark’ has a clear conservation theme, and suggests that children can play a role in addressing/redressing environmental impacts on Australian fauna. It also introduces young readers to the Library’s collections. There is ample opportunity for conversation, at home and in the classroom about Australian animals, habitat destruction and pollution, and the ability for each and all to effect their surroundings. Recommended for early- to mid-primary schoolers.

 

The Rescue Ark, Susan Hall ill Naomi Zouwer NLA 2014 ISBN: 9780642278104

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Last Dance, by Sally Morgan

Hidden by autumn leaves
He sleeps
And dreams of his last dance.

Everyone needs a home, but for some Australian animals, those homes are disappearing, under threat by human actions. If their habitats are destroyed, these animals may die out too. The Last Dance addresses this subject in a form which is both honest and beautiful.

Each spread presents one animal which is threatened, names it and in a three lined verse highlights its plight. There is no wordy discussion or analysis – the text names the perils faced by each new animal, using a single evocative image to highlight that peril – the corroboree frog (above text) dreaming his last dance, the numbat fearful of foxes and the dugong escaping fishermen. Back of book notes, in a double page spread, elaborate a little more, but the message is clear – these animals are endangered, and its is only humans who can do something about the problem.

Illustrations are similalry evocative, filling each spread with colour and detail, again focusiing on the animal’s plight. A central image spans the spread, and a border frames the page with four additional images of the animal in focus marking each corner, looking in to the central image.

The subject matter here is confronting because it is important, but the use of poetic text and beautiful illustrations makes it palatable, inviting discussion. What an excellent way to introduce young readers to this important subject matter and, hopefully, inspire them to action.

The Last Dance

The Last Dance, by Sally Morgan
Little Hare, 2012
ISBN 978192171484

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Tanglewood, by Margaret Wild & Vivienne Goodman

‘What is family?’ asked Tanglewood.
‘Family is love and friendship. Family is everything.’

Tanglewood is the only tree on a tiny island, and she is lonely. She calls to the dolphins, the seals and the birds to come and play with her, but they don’t, and Tanglewood thinks she might die of loneliness. Then, in the midst of a storm, a seagull falls into her branches, and Tanglewood shelters her. When Seagull leaves, to return to her family, Tanglewood is even more alone, having known the feeling of company, but she stays strong, because one day Seagull will return. When that day comes, Tanglewood gets a delightful surprise – not one seagull, but a whole flock, bearing the gift of life in the form of seeds.

Tanglewood is a breathtaking collaboration. Margaret Wild’s text is powerful, syaing enough but never too much and moving like a gentle stream from page to page. Read aloud, the words entrance. The illustrations are a mix of sizes, form double page spreads, to multiple panels on a page, as well as single panels and horizontal panels spanning the middle of spreads with text above and below. The might of the sea, the sparsity of the lonely island and the beauty of the gulls are all captured.

This is a charming, wrenching, gorgeous story.

Tanglewood

Tanglewood, by Margaret Wild & Vivienne Goodman
Omnibus, 2012
ISBN 9781862915701

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.