Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve
The catastrophic bushfires at the beginning of this year dominated the news and usurped the television. Normal programmes vanished and were replaced by roaring flames, some forty metres high, a devastated charred landscape and homes reduced to rubble.
Amongst this horror were heart-rending glimpses of injured animals. A kangaroo turning the sea to steam as it leapt for relief there at Mallacoota; the koala with singed fur and raw and painful paws haunts us all.
Millions of our precious wildlife perished.
Children were seriously affected by these images. They need strategies and support to enable them to handle this nightmare. Sophie Cunningham and her illustrator Anil Tortop have produced a book that will perhaps help us all.
Sophie has written five books, some with an environmental theme. She has been part of the publishing scene for over thirty years and is current chair of the Literature Board of Australia Council.
Her book tells the story of a koala and her baby rescued from a blackened tree in the bush and taken to a rescue centre to be cared for. Tippy and Jellybean are given veterinary care, fed choice gum leaves, and when months later they are well, they’re returned to a home in the bush. Both scramble up the trunk to settle into a happy future.
The child learns of the needs in the life of one of our most loved animals. Their diet is exclusively gum leaves. They cannot run very fast and their means to escape is to climb to the highest point in a tall tree. This of course is very dangerous and, indeed, life threatening in a bushfire.
The language of the text is enriching. Wallabies bound, wombats scramble. It creates a vibrant picture of the koala’s life.
The illustrations by Anil Tortop are simply drawn but beautifully done. By far the most dramatic and effective is the page showing the bushfire. The koalas are dwarfed by the roaring flames which are vividly red and yellow. The fierce wind is terrifying as the animals huddle together in the swaying gum.
The beauty and attraction of this book is it shows that people do so much to help and care for our endangered animals, especially the ones injured in the bushfires.
It gives children a cheerful message that all is not lost and there are good things happening. Tippy’s and Jellybean’s rescue tells them that every animal is precious and people try to do their utmost to help them recover and hopefully thrive. In this little book, they see the koalas are flown in a plane to the rescue centre, a vet gives them special care, volunteers bring their daily food of their favourite gum leaves. So much effort contributed to the survival of the two koalas.
Adults and older siblings who read this to children cannot fail to be touched and heartened too….
Tippy and Jellybean truly is a book for our times.
Tippy and Jellybean.
by Sophie Cunningham and illustrated by Anil Tortop
ALLEN & UNWIN (ALBERT ST]
ISBN 9 781760 878474