Review Blog

Mar 31 2011

The dream of the thylacine by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2011.
In a few spare words, brimful of emotional pull, Margaret Wild tells the tale of the last thylacine, locked in a desolate cage in the Hobart Zoo. It rages and howls as it paces the cage, locked away from the bracken and bush of its wild lands, where snow falls and the creeks are filled with shimmering fish. In 130 words, Wild recreates the home range of the thylacine in the Tasmanian wilderness, and in between these words tell us of its life now, shut behind wire, pacing on a concrete floor. The words sting the reader, tugging at the heart, bringing a lump to the throat, as we read of this animal's eventual end, but the word 'dreaming' implies it remains part of the environment it once roamed.
As with, Fox, Wild has collaborated with Ron Brooks, an illustrator with a prodigious talent and range of skills. 'Champing at the bit' to illustrate this book, he has used a fascinating mixture of styles and techniques, bringing in hints of John Olsen, Brett Whitely, Fred Williams and Arthur Boyd. Mixing his breathtaking illustrations with photos of the wood and wire of the cages is visually arresting and impels the reader to stop and think. The end papers with their overlay of chicken wire reinforce the caged end of this stunning animal, and reminds us again, of Brooks' love of the outdoors.
Reading Drawn from the heart, Brook's memoir, recently published by Allen and Unwin, adds another layer of empathy, as we learn in his words the depths he goes to when illustrating a book, and the works he draws on.
The dream of the thylacine heralds the importance of keeping our environment safe and secure for all species, as every loss is a loss for us all. Students will fall over themselves finding out more information about the thylacine and its extinction relating this to an environmental awareness that we all must share to prevent this happening again.
Fran Knight

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