From the moment news of another Margaret Wild–Ron Brooks collaboration was a mere whiff in the wind, you can imagine children’s book pundits pacing up and down by their bookshelves, rubbing their hands in anticipation. Well, the wait is over and no one is going to be disappointed. The Dream of the Thylacine is here – and it will leave its stamp on your emotions.
This book smacks of sorrow. Everything about it is hung with sadness, regret and longing. It is a lament to the Thylacine, the Tasmanian Tiger, last seen – in captivity – in the late 1930s. The Dream of the Thylacine is as confronting as it is haunting. It will stop you in your tracks. It will reach its giant hand into your safe places and secure its grip on a fistful of feelings you didn’t know you possessed. An utterance will swirl in your mind until it burns in your thoughts – if only…
From the very beginning of the book, the mood is one of yearning. The front cover depicts an arresting image of the Thylacine, followed by the front end paper where the outside world is seen from behind wire. Then, in sepia tones, the Thylacine is portrayed confined in its cage and the narrative in the form of a poem: Trapped am I/in cage of twisty wire, cold concrete/prowl/rage/howl …
The book alternates between the narrative against its sorrowful sepia backdrop, and bold double-page colour spreads of the Thylacine in its natural habitat. Throughout the book the images of the Thylacine fade, until it eventually disappears, at last becoming one with the land in the form of a rock formation on the last page.
As the lament concludes Rest now/Hear the stones chant/the wind console and on the last page, Dreaming am I, the spirit of this woebegone animal sours above the page.
The Dream of the Thylacine is a book that stays with you and calls you back, time and again. It would be suitable for middle primary school children through to adults and presents teachers with a plethora of opportunities for discussion.