A Hollow Is A Home

Author: Abbie Mitchell

Illustrator: Astred Hicks

Publisher: CSIRO Publishing

ISBN: 9781486308057

The publisher says...

Do you know what a tree hollow is? To you and me, a tree hollow is just a hole, cavity or tunnel in a tree or branch. But to an animal, that hollow may be a bedroom, hiding place, nursery or shelter. It is the ultimate tree house! Come and take a peek inside the amazing world of tree hollows and discover more than 340 species of incredible Australian animals that call hollows home. With colour photos of glorious gliders, darting dunnarts, minute microbats and many more, this book is full of fun facts about animals that use tree hollows as places for resting, nesting or hiding. Find out how hollows are created, why they are threatened, and meet scientists who spend their time hollow-hunting. There are also plenty of tips on how you can spot hollows yourself, help to protect the environment and encourage habitat for hollow-dependent animals.

The author says...

Tell us what inspired you to write your Shortlisted book 

My aim was to write a book that would provide a sense of wonder in the first instance, which would then translate to understanding as the reader discovered the intricacies of how nature ticks, and that would finally lead to the reader developing a sense of responsibility in how we all have our part to play in looking after nature. Being shortlisted, being endorsed as a credible and worthy book, I hope means that my book will go some way to achieving that.  

I grew up in the bush – literally running around with bare feet, investigating curiosities and soaking it all in. Over time I learned about all the animals and plants that I shared my home with. I may not have known all their correct names, but they were familiar. I observed the behaviour of animals and how they related to each other. I investigated what animals were eating, and how the cycle of the seasons affected the rhythm of the bush. My inherent understanding of nature came from living with nature. 

realised that I didn’t need to intellectualise nature. Everybody should understand nature. So I decided to marry the two together. I chose to write about tree hollows because it provides a way to introduce lots of cool animals and scientific concepts – but that are common to biodiversity more broadly. My book draws on the wonder I felt watching nature as a child with the scientific explanation I now comprehend. This is a university degree in a kid’s book, where essentially in loving nature, and also understanding the science behind nature, we can better help to look after it.     

Tells us a bit about your creative process 

Is this interesting? Are my words fuelling your imagination? Do you feel any emotional connection? 

These questions were my go-to in writing the book. If the answer was “no” I would stop. If I was bored with my own words, I would stop. If the author is bored, then the reader is definitely bored! There is a really good example of this – not in my book. What you read is the ‘interesting, imaginative’ version of what could have easily been the most boring pages in the book. Pages 14-16 (about how hollows develop).  

I started to write about how hollows form in quite a matter of fact way. When I woke up, having bored myself to sleep, I knew I was going about it the wrong way. How else could I write this? Was there a different point of view? Of course! What would it be like to be a tree? I wrote the line “imagine if a tree could talk”, and suddenly it had interest – because it invites the reader to step outside themselves and picture a different life.  

My overarching method thought was to use an animal to illustrate a particular point 

Well ahead of writing the words I knuckled down and listed hollow-using animals then sorted them by how they could best be interwoven to provide example for the list of key concepts I wanted to cover. I described animal behaviour to provide warmth, interest, humour and emotional connection. After all, they are the reason hollows are so important! 

To do this effectively I would imagine what the animal was doing and then select words to steer the reader to see the same vision:  

“ It crashes through the canopy causing leaves and limbs to fall….” (A feeding striped possum - Page 42) 

….they will ascend into a dog fight, spiralling and twirling until one retreats” (Battling yellow-tailed sheath-tailed bats – Page 26) 

 “The young joey peeks from the pouch as the forest whooshes past….” (Travelling with its glider mother - Page 32) 

Sometimes just a couple of words is enough to coax an emotional response from the reader; “Bombs away” (A bird dropping feaces - Page 43), or “Sounds dreamy” (describing an antechinus nest - Page 56).  

By far the hardest part to write was about threats to hollows (Page 46-51). There is no humour or warmth in animals losing habitat – and there is no humour or warmth in this section of the book. I carefully selected the animals in this chapter to effectively demonstrate the difficulties they face, in the hope that the affection developed for the other animals throughout the book, would provide even greater reason to consider how to better reduce the threats that face them all. 

Finally, I wanted this to be a positive book. The threats facing biodiversity are enormous. The time it takes for habitat to recover, and hollows to develop, is longer than animals have time. However, this book does offer hope. It provides direction; methods for determining the animals in your immediate location, suggestions for improving habitat, understanding for why humans need nature, and ideally compassion for why we would want the beauty and wonder of nature to endure now and in the future.

The CBCA judges say...

This inspiring exploration of tree hollows and the creatures that call them home is well-designed, beautifully written and bound to become an enduring reference book. The thoroughly researched information enriches readers’ understanding of the natural world and our potential role in preserving our wildlife by providing a comprehensive introduction to tree hollows, which are an important ecological feature for so many species. Detailed and varied information is sure to engage young readers by delving into the topic of hollows and explaining how they form and how animals use and depend upon them. Scientific information is presented in a simple and accessible way, with concepts and terminology well defined and explained. Vibrant illustrations, photographs, maps and diagrams complement the content and bring the information to life, and some fun and practical instruction on finding hollows and how to create a nesting box lend the book an interactive element. Profiles and interviews with scientists working in the area of wildlife conservation may even inspire further investigation into the subject. The book is a fun and informative peek into a hidden, yet vital part of nature.

Our Reading Time reviewers say...

Click here to read the Reading Time review

Teaching Notes for the book…

The publisher has generously made teaching resources available for this book. Click on the icon below to view these resources.