Written by guest curator, Bec Taylor
I would like to pay my respects to the traditional custodians of the land, the Palawa people of Tasmania, and to their Elders, past, present, and emerging. I acknowledge their deep spiritual connection to the land and their ongoing contributions to the culture of this nation.
Australian animals are beloved across the globe. We have the most spectacular array of creatures that will either kill you or make you melt into a puddle of ooh-ing and ahhh-ing cuteness overload goo.
In an earlier post, we looked at two endangered Australian animals, endemic to Tasmania, the spotted handfish and the Eastern barred bandicoot.
This post shines a light on beautiful books about two of our most well known Tasmanian animals – the Tasmanian devil and Tasmanian tiger.
“Yowl, scrowl, grrrrr, screeeechhh!”
What on earth is that sound? It couldn’t possibly be coming from that adorable little bundle of black and white fur, could it?
Yes, yes it is. Known best to locals as keen devourers of road kill, Tasmanian devils are found only in Tasmania, despite once being found on mainland Australia too. They are nocturnal and crepuscular hunters, spending the days in dense bush or in a hole. They are a keystone species in the ecosystem of Tasmania but are endangered, due to a prolific and depressing battle with facial cancers [Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD)].
Margaret Wild is an absolute, dead set Australian literature legend. Kerry Argent‘s illustrations emanate warmth, humour, and comfort; every single one of her books holds a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf. When these two team up and create picture books, they simply cannot be beat. One of my favourite picture books of all time is “Ruby Roars”, by this amazing duo. The epitome of an ‘oldie but a goodie’, a wild romp of a story, “Ruby Roars” is the most delightful book to read aloud to children aged 2 and up. The fun you’ll have screeching and yowling is unparalleled.
Published by Allen & Unwin
Released June 1, 2009
Claire Saxby is one of my favourite Australian non-fiction writers, especially her narrative non-fiction (NNF) work. “Great White Shark” and “Iceberg” have been hugely popular in my school library. One of Claire’s latest books is “Tasmanian Devil”, a gorgeous NNF depicting the growth of two imps (or joeys, baby Tasmanian devils). Max Hamilton’s illustrations are breathtaking and really give the reader an accurate idea of what a Tasmanian devil looks like, as well as paying homage to their glorious Tasmanian habitat. Not a spinning animation to be seen!
A gorgeous, lyrical non-fiction read aloud that would delight readers Kindergarten and above.
Published by Walker Books Australia
Released 1 June 2022
Are your upper elementary/primary readers looking for a feel good book about animal activism? Samantha Wheeler’s “Devils in Danger” might be the perfect book for them. 11 year old protagonist, Killarney, discovers a pregnant Tasmanian devil under her house and sets out to protect them from a community not as enamored with the noisy little creatures. Dotted throughout with important facts about the devils, this story is as scientific as it is entertaining. A great choice for students who enjoy NNF and are ready for a longer format.
Published by UQP (University of Queensland Publishing)
Released August 2021
The Tasmanian tiger, also known as the thylacine, was a carnivorous marsupial that was native to the Australian mainland and the islands of Tasmania and New Guinea. It was the largest carnivorous marsupial in modern times and had distinctive stripes on its lower back. The thylacine is now extinct, with the last known individual dying in captivity in 1936. However, researchers recently found the long-lost remains of the last known Tasmanian tiger in a cupboard at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart, Tasmania. Every Tasmanian has hope the thylacine remains in a pocket of wilderness, probably on the rugged west coast. The thylacine has inspired multiple beautiful books that tap into this hope.
“One Careless Night” is a children’s book by Christina Booth. It tells the story of a mother thylacine and her pup as they journey through the Tasmanian bush. The pair live a peaceful existence until the mother is captured by a bounty hunter and transported to the Hobart Zoo. This haunting portrayal of what might have been the last mother-pup dyad in the wild highlights the importance of caring for the environment and native animals.
Published by Walker Books
Published June, 2019
Gary Crew’s body of work is breathtaking. His books, alongside that of Shaun Tan, revolutionised and now typifies Australia’s exemplary sophisticated picture book market. Crew’s chilling book about the plight of Tasmanian tigers, “I Saw Nothing”, is based on the true story of the last Tasmanian tiger who died in captivity in 1936. Mark Wilson’s stunning illustrations, ranging from almost abstract oils to pen and ink scratching, make this historical NNF picture book even more captivating.
“I Saw Nothing” is part of a NNF trilogy about animal extinction. The other two titles, “I Said Nothing” and “I Did Nothing” feature the plight of paradise parrot and the the gastric brooding frog.
Published by Lothian Children’s Books, an imprint of Hachette Australia
Released January 1, 2003
The efforts of Hobart zoo keeper Alison Reid, a pivotal character in “I Saw Nothing”, are captured in this oral history interview, archived by Libraries Tasmania.
“Into That Forest” by Louis Nowra is a unique and engaging story that would appeal to older children, aged about 12 and up.
As published by publisher Allen & Unwin, “From one of Australia’s foremost literary talents, this is an unforgettable and heartbreaking story about two young girls living in the wild with Tasmanian tigers.
Me name be Hannah O’Brien and I be seventy-six years old. Me first thing is an apology – me language is bad cos I lost it and had to learn it again. But here’s me story and I be glad to tell it before I hop the twig.
So begins this extraordinary novel, which will transport you to Australia’s wild frontier and stay in your mind long after you’ve finished reading.”
First published by Allen & Unwin
Released January 1, 2012
About Guest Curator, Bec Taylor
I’m Bec Taylor, the EY3 – Grade 2 cybrarian* at the International School of Beijing, China. I’m a global nomad with Australian roots and a Chinese family home – all my immediate family have lived and worked in Beijing as international school teachers for many, many years.
Overly enthusiastic about everything especially children’s literature, Australian Rules Football (go Doggies!) and food, glorious food, I am easily bribed with coffee and dark chocolate. I am a passionate advocate of social justice, female financial literacy, and finding ways to tread more lightly on the planet. Alongside the demands of a busy family and professional life, I enjoy cultivating community through volunteer work that focuses on healthy families.
I am the current Chair of the Chinese international schools reading promotion, the Panda Book Awards. Titles chosen for the shortlists of the Panda Book Awards meet selection criteria that focus on social justice, diversity and inclusion by up and coming authors and illustrators from across the world. There is an added spotlight on titles that feature Asian settings, characters or creators.
Twitter is my favourite professional development space so please come find me there: @becinthelibrary
The educational hills I will die on are:
- a child’s right to choose what they love to read,
- there is serious magic in reading aloud,
- and the belief that schools are happier, more equitable places with better academic outcomes when the properly funded school library is well staffed with qualified, collaborative and passionate professionals.
*a fancy name that formalises and acknowledges the incredible work teacher librarians do each day to find authentic ways to integrate and explore educational technology in order to capture, expand, and enhance student learning.