Brisbane-based author Cate Storey and illustrator Sarah Matsuda have joined forces to create children’s books that celebrate Australia’s unique landscapes, wildlife and ecology.  

Their second book, The Perfect Hollow: A Greater Glider Story, published by Wet Season Books, follows one Greater Glider’s search for the perfect home, with some scary, hairy and amusing adventures along the way.

They are launching the book at Where The Wild Things Are Bookshop in West End on Saturday, 22 October 2022, with a book reading and wildlife-themed craft activities.

Cate and Sarah believe storytelling and art can create connections between children and the Australian environment and, in turn, grow future advocates for our wildlife.

Greater Gliders have been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons after being reclassified as Endangered under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

“Greater Gliders are one of many Australian animals in desperate need of champions,” explains Cate.

Once widespread across eastern Australia, Greater Gliders had no listing under EPBC only six years ago. In 2016 they were listed as Vulnerable; this year, the listing was updated to, Endangered.”

Like the iconic Koala, Greater Gliders eat gum leaves, preferring specific species of mature eucalypt trees with a diameter larger than 30 cm. They nest in trees with a diameter greater than 50 cm.

Slower and quieter than their better-known cousins, the Sugar Glider, Greater Gliders need a series of familiar den trees to help them hide from predators.

“This means quality habitat is particularly important for Greater Gliders. They don’t cope with either loss of habitat or habitat fragmentation,” says Cate.

Climate change is also taking its toll. The Greater Glider’s physiology and eucalypt diets make them vulnerable to higher temperatures and extreme weather events, specifically, nights above 20 degrees C and prolonged drought. Greater Gliders also need appropriately insulated hollows, which can be hard to replace with man-made alternatives.

Along with the threat posed by logging and clearing for development, more severe storms, droughts, and intense bushfires driven by climate change, mean a loss of hollow-bearing trees.

“One of the most harrowing images emerging from the 2020 bushfires was of scared gliders, attempting to flee and becoming tangled in barbed wire fencing, which is particularly hazardous to Australia’s gliding marsupials,” says Cate.

Sarah and Cate hope that The Perfect Hollow: A Greater Glider Story will raise the profile of this uniquely Australian, gum-leaf-eating-treasure.

There are few children’s books featuring a Greater Glider protagonist, which Cate and Sarah find surprising.

“As an artist, it was an absolute pleasure illustrating a story about the Greater Glider, they really are unique creatures: fluffy, charismatic and expressive,” says Sarah.

Cate Storey and Sarah Matsuda

Sarah Matsuda is a third-generation Australian artist based in Queensland. Her vibrant illustrations breathe life into nature-inspired children’s books and are rich with the textures and colours of the Australian landscape.

Author Cate Storey was motivated to write children’s stories when she struggled to find children’s books that reflected the diversity of the Australian ecological landscape.

“Children have an innate connection with animals and nature,” says Cate. However, she noticed that her children were more familiar with European and domestic animals than Australian and local wildlife. 

They learnt about hedgehogs before echidnas, rabbits before bandicoots and bilbies. This is because these are the animals they see on the TV, learn about in school, and feature in the books they read at bedtime,” Cate says.

Cate and Sarah’s first book, Snuggled Away, is a richly visual, rhyming story about the nocturnal habits of Australian animals. It was published earlier this year. While making a light-hearted bedtime story, Snuggled Away is gently educational, covering both well-known Australian animals and less familiar wildlife, such as phascogales, bettongs and quolls. 

Sarah and Cate hope The Perfect Hollow and Snuggled Away will be just the start of many books featuring Australian wildlife they create together.

We are so lucky as Australians to live in a country with such diversity of plants and animals,” says Cate.

Getting children outdoors and into nature is a great way to build connections with the Australian bush. However, as many of our unique animals are now locally extinct in areas accessible to our children, our unique wildlife must be kept in the national consciousness through art and storytelling. This way we can build a more sustainable tomorrow,” says Cate.

Sarah and Cate are now collaborating on a third book, co-authored by ecologist Penny Watson, featuring a rare Australian bird.

For more details, go to the Where The Wild Things Are Bookshop website.

Cover, The Perfect Hollow Illustration by Sarah_Matsuda