Children’s book inspires conservation campaign

Viarnne Mischon with her new book, An Antechinus in the Attic.

It was about 17 years ago when the idea for Viarnne Mischon’s latest book was born.

“It started as a story for my own children, when I discovered what I thought was a rodent in our attic,” Ms Mischon said.

“It was an antechinus…that was literally how I discovered antechinus existed.”

An Antechinus in the Attic is an A-Z book filled with more than 70 endangered, rare and iconic Australian species.

Ms Mischon, who has lived in the Dandenong Ranges for 16 years, said the story “jumped out of hibernation” after the charity she founded (the School Broadcasting Network Inc) was approached by Google for children’s audio stories.

Two years later, the story has now transformed into a picture book and a conservation campaign, featuring a call to action forward by primatologist Dr Jane Goodall.

The book’s launch, on National Threatened Species Day (7 September), saw the largest collaboration for the event to date, with 26 organisations and 25 storytellers involved.

Throughout September, the book will also raise funds for over a dozen conservation and education organisations.

“It’s about engaging young people to fall in love with Australian species,” Ms Mischon explained.

“Obviously you want to protect what you love, so the idea is about engaging them in this humorous book and falling in love with these endangered species so they’ll want to do something about it and care for these species.”

Ms Mischon said writing the book highlighted the numerous special creatures that many Australians would be unaware of.

“We have a platypus which is one of the weirdest creatures on the planet, we’re used to that. But there are so many that we really are unaware of, like the antechinus for instance,” she said.

“Becoming aware of what they are, that’s the first step towards understanding and protecting them.”

One of those unique species, that is also one of Ms Mischon’s favourites from the book, is a bright pink slug.

“Most people don’t know that we have giant neon pink slugs that live in only one ten square kilometre area at the top of Mount Kaputar,” Ms Mischon said.

“They grow to about 20cm, so they’re quite big. That’s the sort of thing that children find quite fascinating.”

Ms Mischon said she hoped the book would provide children hope, motivation and empowerment, so they feel as though they can make a difference when it comes to conservation.

“I believe that our next generation of children are inheriting one of the toughest gigs of our time,” she said.

“They’ve got a big challenge ahead of them, though knowledge is power.”

An Antechinus in the Attic is published by the School Broadcasting Network and illustrated by bestselling illustrator and author Myke Mollard.

It is available for purchase at www.nativeshop.com.au.