Aleesah Darlison (text) Shane McGrath (illus), Stripes in the Forest : the story of the last wild Thylacine, Big Sky Publishing, 15 August 2016, $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781925275704
Stripes in the Forest is a thought-provoking and memorable picture book suitable for all ages. The messages about endangered animals are strong and powerful and leave a lasting impression on the reader as the text and illustrations work together to create a moving experience.
Told from the point of view of the last wild Thylacine, whose haunting words echo through the ancient forest and through the pages of this book, it raises our awareness of the impact we have on the natural world. The story is one of fear and vulnerability as the creatures must hide from men with “firesticks” who cause destruction and death.
The story begins with the Tasmanian Tiger surveying the land – her home and rightful kingdom and caring for her golden pups. This family scene is juxtaposed with the flight of the terrified creatures trying to run from the brutal onslaught of European hunters. The environmental message is clear: we must protect our endangered species or they will go the way of the Tasmanian Tiger.
Aleesah Darlison’s text is simple but emotive, invoking our senses: the Tiger is alert to the danger as it hears the guns, smells the scent of blood and death and feels the last breath of her slaughtered mate. The repetition of certain lines gives the text a poetic quality while accentuating the striking appearance of the creature and the secret, hidden lifestyle it is forced to lead in order to survive.
The illustrations by Shane McGrath are evocative and powerful suggesting the passing of time as settlement and technology encroach on the Tiger’s habitat. Double page spreads add to the drama and movement capturing the expanse of the landscape and the need to outrun the pursuers.
There is sadness as the humans destroy these unique creatures with no awareness of the harm they cause, however, there is also hope at the conclusion with the question that perhaps this Tasmanian Tiger is not the last of her kind.
The page of interesting facts at the end prompts further reading and understanding and stimulates discussions and studies of Australian native fauna and endangered species. Stripes in the Forest is a valuable resource for primary school to early secondary levels.
Reviewed by Grace Nolan