I Saw Nothing

The extinction of the thylacine

by Gary Crew & Mark Wilson

Paperback | 32 pp | Years 5–8

Student and Teacher Resources

» Getting Started

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Getting Started

Learning for life

  • People change the environment to meet their needs, and these changes impact on and change the environment.
  • Our natural resources, like water and clean air, are precious.
  • We have a responsibility to care for and protect our environment for the future.
  • The planet's natural resources are finite.
  • Many spaces and species are threatened because of human impact on the environment.
  • Natural events affect and change the environment.
  • There are international agencies that promote environmental protection.
  • I may only be one child but I can make a difference.

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Overview

It is Tasmania in the 1930s, a time when money is short, jobs are few and many families depend directly on their environment for survival. The land gives a living for those tough enough to tackle it head on – taming its growth, cutting its timber, trapping its creatures.

It was not a time of words like 'environment', 'conservation', 'protection', 'sustainability' and phrases such as 'carbon footprint' or 'environmental impact study'.

Rosie's father is a timber cutter – 'heavy set and hairy and rough as they come' – in the wild isolation of the Florentine Valley west of Hobart. Her life is bound by her bush environment and its people – like Elias Churchill who is a snarer, and whose very presence makes Rosie shiver.

One day, Churchill calls when Rosie's dad is in the forest. As he turns to leave, she sees something trussed up and slung across his saddle like a bed roll. However, because she is frightened, she pretends to see nothing and goes back to feeding the chooks.

When her father returns, she tells him about it and learns about the mysterious tiger-wolf and the bounty that has been placed on its head. Fascinated by the prospect of seeing both a train and a tiger-wolf she goes with her father to see the creature being loaded to be taken to Hobart. But, again, she sees something she wishes she hadn't – something she cannot forget – that catches up with her many years later.

Since the last thylacine died in 1936, unconfirmed sightings have given the species such a mystery and mystique that it almost has legendary status. Although many of the world's species are added to the extinct list every year, none seem to have the same impact on the imagination as the thylacine.

This book allows students to explore the concept of extinction, the effect that humans can have on the environment, and how even just one child might have an impact. It also allows students to consider the impact that humans can have on their environment, intentionally or not, and the concept of conservation.

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Author profile

Gary Crew was born in Brisbane in 1947. He began work as a draftsman but after ten years he decided to become a teacher.

He began writing fiction, particularly for young adults, because the boys he was teaching could not find any books they wanted to read. His first novel, published in 1985, was called The Inner Circle. In 1989 he gave up teaching to write full time. As well as novels, he writes picture books, often using a particular historical event as the foundation for the story. He also likes to write crime and science fiction.

Gary has won many awards for his works, both in Australia and overseas, including the CBC Picture Book of the Year Award in both 1993 and 1998.

He is married with grown-up children and lives in the mountains overlooking the Sunshine Coast. He enjoys gardening, reading, watching movies and playing with his Jack Russell terriers.

He is now a senior lecturer in Creative Writing, Children's and Adult Literature at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

You can find out more about Gary at www.home.gil.com.au/~cbcqld/crew/crew.htm

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Illustrator profile

Mark Wilson was born in Melbourne in 1949. He always loved drawing, and spent most evenings sketching on huge sheets of paper that his dad brought home from his work. Later, he studied mural design and painting and also did a Diploma in Education the following year. At the same time he was a drummer in a rock band.

In the early seventies, he was a designer and illustrator for student magazines for the Victorian Education Department. At the same time he was in a heavy rock band called 'Centrefold' and then another called 'Piranha'. He still sings with 'The Dodgy Chairs'.

He developed a love of nature and the bush when his family moved to East Gippsland and, since then, much of his subject matter has reflected wildlife and conservation issues, particularly endangered species. His most recent book The Last Tree focuses on the devastation facing the forests and creatures of East Gippsland. This picture book won him his third Whitley Award for Children's Literature. This award 'recognises and rewards outstanding grass-roots nature conservationists around the world'. Mark has also won a number of awards for his work from both the Children's Book Council of Australia and the Wilderness Society.

He has illustrated two other titles in this series (also by Gary Crew): I Said Nothing: The extinction of the paradise parrot and I Did Nothing: The extinction of the gastric-brooding frog. Mark has also illustrated A Prayer for the Animals; Young Murphy (also by Gary Crew); Yellow-Eye (author David Spillman); Carpet of Dreams (author Tessa Duder); and The Penguin Shore (author Tim O'Brien).

You can find out more about Mark Wilson at www.marklwilson.com.au/

References

Bailey, C 2001, Tiger Tales: Stories of the Tasmanian Tiger, HarperCollins, Sydney
Guiler, E 1991, The Tasmanian Tiger in Pictures, St David's Park Publishing, Hobart
Rolland, W 1997, The Tasmanian Tiger: The elusive thylacine, Kangaroo Press, Roseville, NSW
Wellington, Craig (producer) 1996, 'The Tasmanian Tiger – the definitive documentary' (video), Winning Post Productions, Hobart

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Useful websites

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Focus questions

Before reading the book

  • What is the creature on the front cover of the book?
  • Who has seen one? Why/Why not?
  • What does 'extinction' mean?
  • If we know this creature as a Tasmanian tiger, why does Gary Crew refer to it as a thylacine?
  • What other names has the creature been given over time?
  • Why do you think the name 'Tasmanian Tiger' has endured?
  • What clues are there in the illustrations that this is a story set in another time?
  • How does the style of illustrations prepare you for the story?

During reading the book

  • What was Rosie's life like?
  • How was it different from the life you have?
  • Why does Rosie think that trappers were 'hardly a notch above the slaters that crawled on the forest floor'?
  • Why does Rosie think that Churchill had 'the smell of death'?
  • What does Rosie's father mean when he says Churchill will 'be after the bounty' for the tiger-wolf?
  • How much is a pound worth today?
  • What was it that Rosie saw on the train that distressed her so much?
  • Why wouldn't she tell her father why she was crying?
  • What is the significance of the picture of the thylacine with her cubs?
  • Why did Rosie's father consider Elias to be a lucky man to have sold the thylacine to Hobart Zoo?
  • How did Rosie's life change after her father was killed?
  • Why did delivering some mending for her mother have such an impact?
  • How does a modern-day zoo exhibit differ from the one that Rosie found her thylacine in?
  • Why do you think the thylacine was kept in such poor conditions?
  • How does including the illustration of the newspaper headlines of the time help you understand the story better?
  • What did Rosie mean when she said it was her thylacine?
  • Why did she say she was sorry?
  • Do you think she could have done something that might have changed the thylacine's future? What could she have done?

After reading the book

  • What is the significance of the illustration on the title page?
  • How did the illustrations help you understand the story better?
  • What are some of the techniques the illustrator has used to portray the story's message?
  • Could the story have been told without the words?
  • Could the story have been told without the pictures?
  • Even though this is a story set in the 1930s, could it be a story of our time? Why?
  • If you were Rosie, what would you have done?
  • What could you do now if a creature you cared about was threatened with extinction?

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