Jane Stadermann, Gold: Hastings find a rainforest friend, self-published, 14 Feb 2017, 31pp., $20.00 (pbk), ISBN: 9780994467898
When Hastings Mouse finds a yellow seed (the “gold” of the title), he plants it, before leaving Quoll to take care of it while Hastings sets off on other business. He wants to find a housemate to share the tree-home that will grow from the seed.
Set in Gondwana rainforest (which consists of the subtropical, warm temperate and cool temperate rainforests of Central Eastern Australia), Hastings meets a range of animals native to the region, including Cray, Giant Barred Frog and Lyrebird. Despite inviting each to come and live with him, Hastings soon discovers that finding a housemate is not so easy! Every animal already occupies its own particular niche in the forest, and the home he is growing from the seed does not suit their needs.
The author has chosen an interesting and varied assortment of animals from Gondwana rainforest, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates, and the language is well-suited to a picture book readership of around 4-8 years.
The illustrations are also enchanting, with a soft, dreamy quality reminiscent of the diffused light you typically find within a rainforest.
In my opinion, however, the story has several potentially confusing elements. Unlike most picture books stories, this has two alternating threads; the first follows Hastings as he looks for a housemate; the second follows Quoll guarding the seed as it gradually grows into a tree. The illustrations don’t show the seed germinating until about a third of the way into the book, so I was initially unclear as to what the “gold” actually was; especially since it is never referred to in the text as a seed. Moreover, Quoll refers to it as a spot that has fallen from his coat pattern, which is what he believes. This consequently affected my understanding of other elements in the story, such as what the home was and why Hastings was searching for a housemate.
The back matter, written by ecologist Kim Stephan, is highly informative, with photos and brief descriptions of “the stars of Gold”, including common and scientific names, their conservation status, habitat, diet and interesting FYI facts.
With the subtle theme that Gondwana rainforest is as precious as gold, this book has an important conservation message that may prove useful in the classroom, given sufficient guidance. The illustrations provide reason enough for kids love this book.
Reviewed by Julie Murphy