Review of ‘A Hollow is a Home’
Oh how I love this book and I’m so grateful to Sam for reviewing it for me as her Scientific knowledge is invaluable with CSIRO publications. My parents have always had amazing native gardens and I find tree hollows completely fascinating. Their current garden has a number of nest boxes for wildlife and trees with natural hollows. My favourite is the tree with a large native bee hive within its hollow core – native bees make the world a better place don’t you think?! Thank you Sam for this review – you can check out all her other Science based reviews by filtering down to the theme ‘Dr Sam Lloyd Science’.
Title: ‘A Hollow is a Home’
Reviewer: Dr Sam Lloyd
Author/Illustrator/Creators: Abbie Mitchell and Astred Hicks
Publisher/Production: CSIRO Publishing
Age Range: lower primary, middle primary, upper primary, middle grade.
Themes: Tree hollows, hollow ecology, hollow bearing fauna, hollow research
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‘A Hollow is a Home’
‘A Hollow is a Home’, written by Abbie Mitchell and illustrated by Astred Hicks, is Australia’s first book for young and adolescent readers dedicated to hollow-dependent wildlife and my new favourite book from CSIRO Publishing!
Whilst this may have something to do with my background and research interests as a terrestrial ecologist…it is more relevant to say that it is because it is simply a fantastic book and excellent resource.
Hollow-dependent wildlife are animals that depend on hollows in standing trees, both living and dead, to live in for shelter, nesting and protection (from predators amongst other things).
Tree hollows are home for more than 340 Australian species (about 15% of Australian animals), including birds, frogs, bats, possums, gliders, rodents, snakes, small and large lizards, invertebrates (but this book focusses on vertebrate animals) and many others!
‘A Hollow is a Home’ sets about to engage young readers in this intriguing and invaluable part of bush ecology – how it is that wildlife live in tree hollows, which species use tree hollows, how tree hollows form and how to spot and monitor hollows in your backyard or local area.
Whilst the book is technically pitched to Years 3 – 6, as with most of my reviews, I would propose that other years (in particular, early to middle high school students) can benefit from this text.
The book is beautifully laid out, with ample photos and diagrams on each page to keep readers engaged (and excellent teacher notes). It is also very comprehensive, and I just can’t see how high school students studying biology or environmental studies could not find this an informative and relevant text.
I also think it could be readily applied in Prep/Kindy to Year 2 to inspire and inform lessons and discussions around how animals live in the bush. Children (and adults alike) love photos of beautiful and intriguing animals and that is exactly what this book provides…I really think it should be in every school library and classroom!
The book is broken into a series of chapters, which takes the reader through some of the fundamental aspects of hollows, including why some animals need hollows and what size they need, how long they take to form (about 200 years for one 11 – 15cm!), competition between animals for hollows and key threats to tree hollows (e.g. land cleaning).
There is a great section on how to spot and monitor tree hollows and the use of artificial hollows (called nest boxes – see below). The authors have also included a chapter that looks at research on tree hollows, feature scientists and what sort of research they conduct.
Of course, they profile a suite of fascinating species that use hollows. After spotlighting them a few times during my PhD, my favourite is the beautiful eastern pygmy possum, requiring a hollow with an entrance of less than 5cm. If you have a child who loves animals, this is definitely the book for them!
A note on “artificial hollows” (i.e. nest boxes) for wildlife
The purchase (or building) and installation (in the right tree) of “artificial hollows”, or nest boxes, for wildlife is a popular way for many property owners to better support hollow-dependent wildlife on their property. In doing so, you may also be able to monitor the use of nest boxes (via camera monitoring), thereby increasing the chance of capturing nest box use by wildlife.
Installing nest boxes is a wonderful way of encouraging your children and family to more closely experience the wildlife on your property. If you are interested in installing a nest box it is important that you source (or build) one from a reputable provider and install it in an appropriate tree in the right way. The best way to do this would be to contact your local Land for Wildlife officer (see link below) or local council environment officer.
The back of the book has a list of some tree hollow references, further sources include:
- Land for Wildlife SEQ: Land for Wildlife is a free and voluntary program that encourages and assists landholders to manage wildlife habitat on their properties (including tree hollows). Land for Wildlife is available to landholders in many parts of Australia (including Tasmania, Victoria, NSW, Western Australia and Qld), but South East Qld remains the fastest growing network in Australia! Through Land for Wildlife you can learn about native plants, animals and ecosystems on your property…including how to build and install nest boxes and best protect and monitor any tree hollows you may have on your property.
- Hollow Log Homes: If you are interested in purchasing a nest box for a suitable tree for your property, Hollow Log Homes are a very good place to start. They also have information and resources on building and installing artificial hollows.
Dr Samantha Lloyd is an ecologist and environmental manager with a passion for the Australian bush, children’s literature, dance, music and baking.
Having graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Science (Biology), 1st Class Honours in 1998 and a PhD (pollination ecology) in 2006, Sam has worked as an environmental manager for the SEQ regional NRM body; as an entomologist for the Australian and New Zealand Fire Ant Control Programs; and as Coordinator of the Moreton Bay Oil Spill Environmental Restoration Program.
Sam’s long-standing daytime gig is as Manager of the South East Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium, with bushfire ecology and awareness being another of her passions.