on the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger
by Margaret Middelbach and Michael Crewdson
Feeling like a travelogue mixed with natural history, this fantastic book was created out of a trip two naturalists and one artist made to Australia and Tasmania with one main purpose in mind- to find the Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine. Traveling across the island in search of a carnivorous marsupial long believed extinct, the adventurous threesome hiked through rainforests, up mountains, crept into caves and visited pubs and museums dedicated to the Tasmanian tiger. They interviewed many people of different sorts who still search for the thylacine, and enthusiasts including wildlife experts working to save endangered marsupials and scientists hoping to one day clone the thylacine from tissue of preserved specimens.
Just as fascinating as the lore about thylacines and the history of their demise presented in these pages are the descriptions of the astonishing and curious Tasmanian wildlife. It was enough to make me want to visit Tasmania one day, to see the bandicoots, pademelons, echidnas, quolls and potoroos for myself. There's lots of interesting information and humorous incidents in these pages, and I marked a dozen pages that mentioned animals or incidents I want to read more about, as well as a list of fourteen additional books on the thylacine and other Tasmanian wildlife. One odd thing about the book is that it's written entirely in the "we" form- which felt awkward at first, but eventually I was able to ignore it. And what I really enjoyed is the artwork of Alexis Rockman, which adorns every chapter- made from acrylic mediums mixed with soil, mud, and other natural substances taken from visited sites and often having direct relation to the animal painted. I kept skipping the text to gaze at the artwork, then going back to read more. (His art in the book doesn't look like what I could find online- it is very granular, textured and mostly monochromatic).
Rating: 4/5 ........ 320 pages, 2005