The Quokka’s Guide to Happiness by Alex Cearns

Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve

The subtitle reads: a little bit of wisdom from the happiest animal on the planet. The Quokka enjoys its fame by featuring in countless photos and selfies. It is found mostly on Rottnest Island off the coast of Western Australia, a short boat trip from Perth.

The quokka is loved by people, including many celebrities, for it has a friendly personality, a furry chubby appearance and its mouth seems to smile contentedly.

Alex Cearns is a talented photographer.  She has won international awards and many consider her to be one of the best animal photographers in the world. It is challenging to capture an animal on film. They do not pose cooperatively and often move at the most inopportune times!

Her book starring the Quokka is a small treasure. Each page contains a picture of a quokka beaming happily and opposite is a one-line quote from poet, thinker, philosopher or famous person.

The first four pages, Meet the Quokkas, relates the background to the little animal which is the size of a domestic cat. One of the smallest of the macropods, (kangaroos and wallabies) it hops around and has a pouch. It is a herbivore.  We are told that the quokka pants when it is hot, so this action makes the open mouth appear to be smiling.  Its friendliness stops there. It hates to be touched, so visitors are warned to take care. Children have sometimes suffered minor injuries.

Alex Cearns touches on habitat, babies, diet, vital statistics, and environment. Since it has become an internet star, the quokka’s survival has improved. Until recently, it was a vulnerable species. Public interest has resulted in more funding and research.

There are many worthwhile quotes: “‘tis substantial happiness to eat” from Alexander Pope would be readily endorsed almost universally!

Wisdom abounds and many of these wise words are self evident. ‘He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much.’ In a materialist and superficial world, this is reason to pause….

Victor Hugo can be mistaken for a mindfulness guru when we read, ‘Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face’.

Einstein, famous for his scientific brilliance, was also wise. My favourite of all the quotes is his: ‘Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift’.

The selection of happy quotations comes from many, mostly, men.  Buddha, Confucius, Aristotle, Laozi and Bertrand Russell are great philosophers who focus on the many aspects of the human condition.  It was surprising to find Charlotte Bronte and Charles Darwin included here. Charlotte Bronte because she lived an unhappy and difficult life with little chance to dwell on the possibility of happiness. Darwin was occupied with his monumental scientific work, but obviously found time to contemplate this.

Alex finishes her book with advice on how to snap a quokka. Although she says they are super friendly animals, there are a few cautionary maxims to observe.

People who already are fond of this little charming creature will love this book and anyone unfamiliar with it will learn why it has become, ‘the world’s happiest animal’.

The Quokka’s Guide to Happiness

[2020]

by Alex Cearns

ABC Books

ISBN 9780733341090

$24.99; 146 pages

 

 

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