Sunday 25 November 2012

One Small Island

I was very excited about this title when it came out last year, it's a shame that it's taken me so long to read it. It's a fabulous book, about a fascinating part of the world. Little did I know how fascinating it really is.

One Small Island tells the tale of Macquarie Island, a small island in the Southern Ocean between New Zealand and Antarctica. But like all good things that good possibly be construed as belonging to New Zealand, we found it first and claimed it for Australia.

Macquarie Island was discovered in July 1810 by Captain F Hasselborough, who had been blown off course while heading to Campbell Island, another subantarctic island. He named it for Lachlan Macquarie, the new Governor of New South Wales. Actually, much of New South Wales is named either Lachlan or Macquarie, and I'm sure the ongoing popularity and use of the name Lachlan in Australia stems from this time also.

Macquarie Island was a natural refuge to huge colonies of seals and penguins. A sealing industry was immediately set up in 1810, and in the ten short years that followed the sealers killed more than 100,000 fur seals, until there were none left. Naturally a lack of seals didn't stop the ravenous desire for oil, the elephant seals were the next target, and when they were all but gone then penguin oil became the industry. It seems rather impossible that there was a penguin oil industry at one time, I'm glad we live in a somewhat gentler time.

I've known about conservation efforts on Macquarie Island for some time, the recent efforts to rid the remote island of rabbits and rats. I didn't know that previously there were feral cats, dogs and wekas amongst many others!

There is a lot of information packed into this book, so much so that both endpapers include even more.

The book itself alternates large illustrative double pages

with beautiful, intricate pages crammed with information in various formats- imaginings of primary journals from early explorers and sealers, newspaper accounts, maps, drawings. There are a few lines of text at the bottom of each page, that reads quickly as a stand alone story. I was too keen to read the story so read through the bottom first and then came back for a slower reading of the informative pages. It's a very clever design, easy to read just the text for younger children, but then with much more information that older children and adults can digest. Although young children do love pouring over illustrative detail.

While One Small Island is a tale of ecological destruction and (mis)adventure, it is ultimately optimistic and hopeful. We have stopped the slaughter of seals and penguins. Although it is sadly too late for the Macquarie Island parakeet, the seals and penguins have come back. The wekas, cats and dogs have gone. There rabbits and rodents are on their way out due to expensive, large scale government efforts. The books message that it's important to care for our "precious places, no matter how small or faraway they are" is a vital one.

An Illustrated Year by An Abundance of Books


Tammy Flanders said...

I love the look of this one. Sounds great for the Doucette Library (curriculum library).
Thanks for the recommendation.
Apples with Many Seeds

GatheringBooks said...

I've read Armin Greder's The Island as well as Shaun Tan/Gary Crew's The Rabbits - I have a feeling that this would be a lovely companion book to those picture books. Will look for this one. Thanks for sharing.

Swan Pond said...

According to the library I have this out right now. I really better find it and read it!

Louise said...

I hope you are able to find it . Actually Fishpond have it with free shipping.

You should indeed Megan, it's fab.