A heart-warming story about two koalas and how they survived one of Australia’s worst bushfire seasons.
Sophie Cunningham is an Australian author of novels, a memoir and nonfiction. She has been a publisher and editor and was co-founder of the Stella Prize. Illustrator Anil Tortop, born in Turkey, now works in Australia as an animator and character designer.
Tippy and Jellybean – The True Story of a Brave Koala who Saved her Baby from a Bushfire is based on a true story. At the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, a huge portion of Australia was devastated by bushfires. Media reported the loss of homes, lives and bushland. But the stories that went around the world and captured the attention of everyone, was the huge loss of our wildlife. Cunningham has used these sad few months in recent Australian history to write a story about two koalas who have been rescued, and the vet who looked after them until it was safe to release them back into the wild.
Tippy and her baby koala Jellybean live in the Australian bush with all their friends: possums, echidnas, wallabies, and snakes. One day they are engulfed by smoke and flames, eventually rescued and transported to an animal hospital. After medical intervention, they are then taken to a sanctuary to recuperate. Tippy and Jellybean tells the story of their rescue and rehabilitation.
The main characters have real appeal, just as the koalas during the bushfires became the main focus of world attention. Part of this is due to their cuteness but also their inability to move fast enough to escape danger.
This story alone would not be successful. The text is very matter-of-fact and has little emotion. Thankfully this is counteracted by the beautiful coloured illustrations by Anil Tortop, which perfectly complement the text. They add to the story in subtle ways. We can feel the stifling heat of the fire, see the wind blowing, imagine the terror of the animals unable to escape. They draw us into the story. There is also much discussion that can be centred around just the illustrations – for example, the regrowth on the trees; the gloomy, smoke filled atmosphere; and the obvious devastation of the fires.
Tippy and Jellybean would make a lovely gift but would also be a very useful tool for kindergarten and junior primary discussions centred around Australian wildlife, the bushfire season, those who help our wildlife, and the regeneration of the bush.
$1 from every copy sold will be donated to the Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund to help with emergency veterinary assistance and scientific intervention.
Reviewed by Sue Mauger
Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: June 2020
RRP: $19.99 hardcover