Rohan Cleave (text), Coral Tulloch (illus), Phasmid: saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect, CSIRO Publishing, Sept 2015, 32pp., $24.95 (hbk), ISBN 9781486301126
This picture book tells the story of the Lord Howe Island phasmid (stick insect) in three parts. The first is from the view of the endangered phasmid who were decimated when rats from a shipwreck washed ashore and ate them. A few escaped to Balls Pyramid, a rock island sticking out of the sea a short distance away, and were discovered alive in 2001 by enthusiastic entomologists. The second part is a repeat of the information in third person and in more detail, with scientists named and the passion for their expedition oozing from the page. The third section is a fact file on Dryococelus australis and there’s a glossary to finish.
It’s hard not to be fascinated by the tale of this interesting insect and a lot could be made of its life cycle and ‘Lazurus’ state in an educational setting. There’s reference to the Melbourne Zoo’s phasmid display, including details of a video Rohan Cleave (the phasmid zoo keeper and author of the book) made of a phasmid hatching. Watch it – it’s already had over two million hits – and you’ll be riveted, asking questions like ‘how did it fit in there?’ and ‘is it going to make it?’. The illustrations in the book match the alien-like birth completely. Good on the CSIRO for sharing their passion with readers and I hope we see more children’s books as part of their publishing programme.
Reviewed by Pam Harvey