Updated: Apr 5
It’s fantastic news that Hold On! Saving the Spotted Handfish has been announced as a CBCA Notable for the 2021 Eve Pownall award. This species now only occurs off Tasmania, and I had a dream of making the Spotted Handfish a household name around Australia. Moving closer?
My information children’s picture book features the plight of this quirky, little ancient fish, that’s famous for two reasons. Walking on its hands and being the first marine fish in the world to be listed as endangered. Move over Nemo and move over charismatic megafauna, this little guy represents the smaller threatened creatures in the ocean. But the Spotted Handfish was in serious trouble and walking the way of the dinosaurs!
The book is narrated by Handstand, a cute cartoon handfish, who tells the tale of life on the seafloor and how he and his relatives are facing extinction. His tale is also one of the circle-of-life, and this is how scientists were able to step in to help save his species. I originally wrote a version of Handstand’s story many years ago as part of my Master of Science Communication; my 2004 thesis was Communicating Science and Species Conservation through Children’s Literature. Since then, the situation for several Handfish species has gotten even worse, with the Smooth Handfish recognised as extinct in 2020 and the Red Handfish found to have less than 100 individuals left. But Handstand says Hi Five I’m Staying Alive! – scientists have been able to really help out the Spotted Handfish and save it from the brink of extinction. The book has been beautifully interpreted and illustrated by Rachel Tribout. Read it to find out more!