Thursday 19 January 2012

The Dream of the Thylacine

Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks are both famous in their own right. Margaret Wild as the author of more than 70 books, including the extraordinary Fox, the result of her previous pairing with Ron Brooks. Ron, equally is one of our most famous and celebrated illustrators, his Bunyip of Berkeley Creek an enduring Australian classic. So I was sure that any new book by the two of them would be an interesting read.

I have a soft spot too for books about Thylacines, the Tasmanian Tiger, that became extinct in the 1930s after the last known animal died in captivity in Beaumaris Zoo, near Hobart, in 1936. Their extinction is particularly tragic I think, although of course the extinction of any species is tragic. Thylacines lived on the Australian mainland before the introduction of the dingo about 4,000 years ago. After white settlement of Australia they were restricted to Tasmania, and they were hunted out of existence in little over 100 years, aided by bounties. Now the Tasmanian Devil, Tasmania's other major predator, is under threat from Devil Facial Tumour Disease, at least now people are working to try to prevent the Devil's demise.

I was always going to pick up this book as soon as I saw it at the library. I hadn't heard of it before, but it literally leapt off the shelf at me. The back cover blurb calls it a lament for a lost species, and it certainly is that. The words are few, and illustrated by black and white illustrations of caged Tigers. The Tiger in each of the three pages like this becomes faded and more distinct in each image.

Interspersed between these pages are Ron Brook's beautiful painted illustrations of a free Tiger, capturing the Tiger's dreams of freedom, and a life in the wild. Ron Brooks writes very movingly about his paintings for this book on his website (you just need to scroll down a bit). Ron lives in Tasmania, and his love for the Tasmanian landscape is evident in his paintings.

It's a beautiful and moving book. I found this last image particularly poignant.

An Illustrated Year is hosted by An Abundance of Books.


Parisbreakfasts said...

Fascinating book!
So many exotic animals in Australia but this one tops the others in strangeness.
Man is very destructive indeed..

edgar said...

I did not know there are tigers in Australia. That One learns something everyday is true.
They are colorful illustrations.

shelleyrae @ book'd out said...

Thanks for sharing your AWW review!

Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

Anonymous said...

I love this book so amazingly