Stripes in the Forest by Aleesah Darlison
Published by Big Sky Publishing
By their very nature, picture books tend to be pitched to primary-aged or even younger children and so they mostly contain gentle or joyful themes, or at the very least, have happy endings.
However, a small number of authors and publishers occasionally risk going out on a limb to engage children with starkly real and possibly unpalatable subjects. Stripes in the Forest is such a book, written by Aleesah Darlison, who is a joint winner of the 2015 Environment Award for Children’s Literature (Non-Fiction).
In her latest picture book Darlison has managed to meld gentle storytelling with harsh reality. In so doing she has provided young readers with food for thought about endangered species and how thoughtless actions by humans can impact the future of other creatures on Earth.
Stripes in the Forest is told from the perspective of the ‘last’ wild thylacine, a female that has observed terrible things occurring within her secretive thylacine community, deep in the forest. Strange creatures on two legs, humans with ‘firesticks’, have gradually killed off her kind in their quest for thylacine skins and now her own mate has been shot. She hears his last cry.
A picture of stealth in the shadows, the female thylacine creeps away, all alone. But perhaps, eighty years ago, she may not have been the last thylacine after all. Did she have a secret; were babies growing within her belly?
Soon the reader is pondering that maybe, in thick forest and far from humans, another female thylacine plays today with her golden babies, while these young ones grow the stripes that will keep them camouflaged and safe. After all, to this day we still hear tales of people in southeastern Australia who are convinced they’ve seen a wild thylacine.
Stripes in the Forest is a simply told, yet highly impactful story that also contains seeds of hope for primary-aged children to hold on to.
This deeply moving book includes a final page that lists facts about thylacine extinction, but importantly, although the book’s narrative highlights the finality of loss of species, it softens this message by encouraging children to consider that, given the right circumstances, creatures on the brink of being lost forever might still be saved.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Aleesah Darlison
Illustrator: Shane McGrath
Title: Stripes in the Forest
Publisher: Big Sky Publishing
Published: May 2016