17 Mar 2009

I saw nothing

I have only recently come to know Australian author Gary Crew, though given how prolific he has been, I wonder how this could be so. Perhaps it is because he writes mainly for kids older than Jemimah? Anyhow, my trip to the big smoke to visit the dentist last week resulted in me bringing home not one but two picture books by this impressive author. Yeah, I know, extravagant, but you've gotta numb the pain somehow...

I Saw Nothing is written through the eyes of Rosie, the young daughter of a Tasmanian timber cutter in the 1930's. Rosie had never liked Elias Churchill, one of the local trappers who visited her father. She liked him even less when she discovered that he had snared a tiger-wolf. Rosie told her Dad about it:

"A tiger-wolf?" he said. "Haven't seen one of them for years. He'll be after the bounty."
"Bounty?" I said.
"They reckon the tiger-wolves are killin' the sheep."
"What sheep?" I wanted to know. "There aren't any sheep around here."
"Maybe not," he said. "But he'll still get a pound for the scalp. The government's tryin' to get rid of them tiger-wolves."

But Churchill didn't kill the tiger-wolf for its bounty – he threw it in a cage, covered in blood. It paced up and down, moaning. Rosie started to cry. Churchill had sold the tiger-wolf to the Hobart Zoo.

Several years later Rosie sneaks into the zoo to hunt for her tiger-wolf. There, she meets a lady called Alison Reid. Miss Reid tells Rosie that the real name for a tiger-wolf is a thylacine, and confides her fears that Rosie's thylacine may be the last one alive.

On September 7, 1936, Rosie's thylacine dies:
The thylacine in the photo was mine. Dead. Gone. Pined away. All alone in that stinking cage.
Rosie is left to ponder. What could she have done? Was she the last person to see the thylacine alive and free in the wild? Could she have set it free? Could she have done...something?

Gary Crew manages to tell the story of the thylacine in such a way that our kids will easily understand what lead to the extinction of this animal. By seeing and experiencing Rosie's reactions and behaviour, they might be able to see how we can all do something to prevent the extinction of a species. The text carries a message of responsibility and I think our children will get that message loud and clear. Jemimah responded with righteous indignation, "Why didn't the government do something, Mummy? Why wasn't Rosie brave enough?"

I Saw Nothing is the first book in the three book Extinct Series, I Saw Nothing: The Extinction of the Thylacine, I Said Nothing: The Extinction of the Paradise Parrot and I Did Nothing: The Extinction of the Gastric Brooding Frog. For the series, Gary Crew received a National Environment Award for Children's Literature from the Wilderness Society in Sydney on World Environment Day in 2004.

I haven't seen the others yet, but look forward to the opportunity next time I'm in the city. I only hope that I don't need to visit the dentist in order to do so!

Tiger in the Bush by Nan Chauncy is another great Australian living book about the thylacine (or Tasmanian tiger, as I think of them). She won the Children's Book of the Year award for the book in 1958.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Jeanne, these living books cause our children to relate to and care for God's creation in a way textbooks cannot.

    Thanks for the welcome home. I look forward to catching up on your blog.


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