Henricus Peters reviews Hollow is a Home by Abbie Mitchell, illustrated by Astred Hicks.

Take a peek into the world of tree hollows and the Australian animals that call them home.

Trees are praised for many things, and rightly so: provider of nesting site for birds; perching place for beautiful flowers; the roots strengthen and structure the soil.

How often do we consider the ‘holes’ – the oxygenated gaps in a tree – as providing anything. Yet that is exactly the premise of this – a clever (and true) idea, and a clever book.

To you and me, a tree hollow is a just a hole, cavity or tunnel in a tree. But to an animal, a ‘hollow’ becomes a natural bedroom, hiding place away from predators, a nursery or shelter from the rain.  

Why is this book unique? Hollow is a Home is actually the children’s book specifically dedicated the topic of hollow-dependent wildlife. For that, one reviewer stated “its my new favourite book from CSIRO Publishing”.   

Particularly noteworthy about this book: it is very richly designed and beautifully written, taking it from the reference book shelves and bounced to the world of natural history (ecology).      

The chapters are simple yet effective: “A hollow is a home” shows clearly what parts of a tree are used; “How safe is my tree” looks at threats including habitat loss; there are also profiles of scientists who study and create action plans to help species that use hollow habitats. Throughout the book, ‘Creature Features’ share information about particular species. The reality is that not every species that uses a tree hollow habitat is in a Creature Feature, however that would very likely have expanded the book well beyond its current 103 pages. An index would have helped to cross-reference the information. The end pages include a list of hollow-using species. 

Shortlisted for The Wilderness Society’s Environment Award for Children’s Literature 2020: Non-Fiction and the CBCA Eve Pownall Award for Information Books 2020; longlisted for the Australian Book Design Awards 2020: Children’s Non-Fiction Illustrated Book. 

A great resource on creatures and their connections with the all-important tree habitat, highly recommended as an information text as well as a superb reader for that future ecologist in your family or class. 

Mitchell, A. (author), Hicks, A. (illustrator) (2020). Hollow is a Home. CSIRO Publishing. ISBN: 978-1-4863-0805-7.

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