Each year, the Wilderness Society awards outstanding children’s books that promote a love of nature, and a sense of caring and responsibility for the environment. This year, Our Class Tiger, one of our Oxford Literacy Independent titles, was joint winner in the non-fiction category for the 2015 Environment Award for Children’s Literature. In celebration, we chat to author Aleesha Darlison about her inspiration and key messages behind the book.
What was the inspiration for Our Class Tiger, why feature a tiger?
I adore tigers. They’re beautiful, powerful, spell-binding creatures – and unfortunately they’re becoming increasingly rare. Although children and adults alike are fascinated by them, most people probably don’t know a lot about them. So when the publisher at Oxford University Press asked me to write a story that featured a tiger, I was very excited. Writing this book was the perfect way to teach children important facts about tigers and also to highlight ways we can help save them. Our Class Tiger is a narrative non-fiction story so it engages young readers with an entertaining story while at the same time imparting key information, making the book perfect for use in the classroom.
Do you work with endangered animals, why choose a topic like this?
I have a great interest in and passion for animals, their welfare and protection. And I love books and writing. Being an author, I get to combine these two great loves to create stories about all sorts of animals. Many of my books feature endangered animals and while I haven’t been lucky enough to work with them on a daily basis, I have presented educational sessions at zoos and wildlife parks to help highlight the plight of those animals in danger and what we can do to save them. Books like Our Class Tiger are important so young children can learn to understand, appreciate, love and protect endangered animals. They need our help to survive.
What was the key message you wanted to share with the children reading Our Class Tiger?
An important part of the book is trying to impress upon children how crucial it is to help save tigers and how small things they do can help these beautiful creatures in big ways. No matter how old you are or where you live, you can make a difference.
What is your favourite spread in the book?
That’s a very difficult question to answer! The designer and illustrator have done a superb job bringing the story of Our Class Tiger to life. Every spread is interesting and eye-catching and, of course, Berhaga, the tiger cub in the story, looks magnificent in the photos. If I had to choose one, it’s at the start (Page 4 and 5) where Rose Carter, the little girl from class 3M, introduces the story and tells everyone that her class is adopting a tiger. The picture of Rose is accompanied by a gorgeous photo of a tiger cub with his pink, curly tongue sticking out – that photo is used on the front cover too. It’s irresistible.
Do you have any more fun facts to share about our endangered friends?
A group of tigers is called a ‘streak’ or an ‘ambush’. Oh, and tigers can jump over five metres in length and swim up to six kilometres. That sure beats me hands – or should I say, paws – down.
Aleesah Darlison is a multi-published, award-winning Australian children’s author. She has written over twenty books for children including picture books, chapter books and novels/series. Aleesah has won numerous awards for her writing including an Australian Society of Authors (ASA) mentorship. Aleesah travels throughout Australia and overseas delivering talks and workshops to children and adults at preschools, schools, libraries, literary festivals and writers’ centres.