Review Blog

Nov 29 2011

Wild whiskers and tender tales by Ute Wegmann with Dr Anthony Helman

cover image

Wakefield Press, 2011, S.A.
Wild whiskers and tender tales, sub-titled Close encounters with Australian wildlife rescue and conservation, is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the altruistic and hard-working individuals who care for our injured wildlife.
The main author entry is for Ute Wegmann, who is the photographer. Ms Wegmann has a very impressive and lengthy pedigree, so to speak, both as an animal photographer (Burke's Backyard Magazine, Dog's Life Magazine, Black and White), and in the wider commercial world (Luxury Homes, Australian House and Garden, Australian HiFi Magazine, Iron Man etc). The benefits of this professional expertise are immediately apparent in the extremely high quality photographs - beautiful to look at, informative and expressive, varied settings, and nicely framed. A wide variety of rescued wildlife is covered, including the Greater Bilby, Flatback Turtle, Platypus, Carpet Python, Swamp Wallaby and many others. We read about the situation in which the animal was found, and interesting information is provided about the particular carer.
The book contains a significant amount of text, written by Dr Anthony Helman, who has the added author entry. [I must declare an interest here, as Dr Helman is my brother, but rest assured, I would not be writing about the book in the first place if I did not think it warranted a favourable review!] The writing takes an interesting lateral approach to the study of wildlife, as we approach the topic firstly through the circumstances of the animal's rescue and their carer, and the focus then broadens out to a wider look at the animal's particular behaviour and ecology. This is done in a humorous and accessible manner, for example the section on Milsom the platypus:
The platypus was such a surprise to naturalists who received the first specimens sent back to England that they thought someone had played an elaborate hoax by stitching together the bill and webbed feet of a duck to the body of a mammal!
This exerpt brings me to the only point of caution I would make about Wild whiskers and tender tales, which is that although the pictures and layout appeal to a wide age range, the literacy, font size and text presentation would be more suited to secondary than primary readers.
Peter J Helman

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