Stripes in the Forest
Big Sky, 2016
32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
Stripes in the forest, stealth in the shadows.
The last female thylacine tracks through the forests of Tasmania, lands this top predator once owned and roamed at will. But now she watches the strange creatures who are invading the land with their firesticks as they hunt and kill, not caring about the impact they are having on the environment and its creatures. She finds a mate and pups are born, but life becomes ever more precarious. Will she be the last of her kind?
The fate of the thylacine (aka the Tasmanian Tiger) has been an enigma since the last one died in Hobart Zoo in 1936, just two months after protection was finally granted in a bid to save them from extinction. Did the pups in this story survive? Were there more to be born? Even today, there are questions being asked and talk of genetic resurrection.
Darlison brings to light the possible story of the final female in this story for younger readers who want to know more about this intriguing creature while McGrath’s illustrations help them imagine a different Tasmania, one that is full of menace and fear as European settlement continues to encroach on the indigenous inhabitants.
While Australia has lost 27 mammal, seven frog and 24 bird species to extinction since the first European settlement in 1788, and another 506 species are considered endangered, vulnerable or threatened, the thylacine is the one that has captured the imagination and is the perfect introduction to investigating the concept of extinction and human impact on the environment. Unlike the dinosaurs which were wiped out by a natural disaster, extinction and endangerment is now linked directly to human habitation so using Stripes in the Forest as a starting point to ask why the men were intent on shooting every thylacine they saw and then investigating what happens to both fauna and flora when such an important part of the food chain is gone can be a key part in creating awareness of the need to nurture our environment for our youngest readers. A perfect example of using fiction to lead into an investigation that will go way beyond just the initial reading of the story.
Experience has shown that there is great interest in the thylacine but not a lot written for younger readers so this is a must-have for the collection.
Teachers’ notes fitting the Australian Curriculum can be found here