Review Blog

Jul 29 2011

One small island by Alison Lester and Coral Tulloch

cover image

Penguin, 2011. ISBN 978 0 670 072363.
(Ages 8+) Highly recommended. Picture book. Environment. A stunning portrayal of the Southern Aurora greets the reader as they pick up this inviting book, containing information about Macquarie Island while telling the story of the place and how it has survived the ravages of our invasion.
The endpapers welcome the readers with a beautiful map alongside the factual tale of the island's history from tis geological past to the present day.
Opening and ending with a stunning vista of this isolated island from the perspective of the albatross, the book implores us to help save this precious place, and so all such places. Each double page spread separated by these endpapers alternates between pages seemingly from a note book with snippets of hand written information gathered in the field, with drawings and sketches of things seen, and paintings that fill the double page, with a single clear message. About half way through the book, for example, is a double page of information about the penguin oil industry taken from accounts at the time, with drawings of the places this was carried out, pictures of the penguins and of the ships involved in the trade. A gruesome read. Following that is a double page of penguins resting on their rocky shore, albatross in the deep grey sky, and seals beside them on the beach, with the information that the island became a wildlife sanctuary in 1933. The comparison between the two double pages will entreat readers to stop and give thought to the scale of that announcement and what it meant for the island. Other pages are similarly comparable. One about the arrival of people on its shores, and the next the destruction caused by the cats brought with them. Another showing the range of new wonders to be found on the island, the next the settlement by the sealers, with blood along the beach.
Each invites the reader to think further, to give thought to the fate of places such as this and hence to the wider world under threat from our encroachment. The last few pages tell the reader of some of the projects underway limiting the destruction caused, and the results of this, while the end comes back to the albatross in the sky looking down on an island somewhat different from the one at the start. A timeline, glossary and another map with climate statistics rounds off a spectacular book, a homage to Macquarie Island that will be sought after by teachers and students to use as part of their discussions about their environment, sustainability, conservation and rehabilitation.
Fran Knight

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