Title: Devils in Danger

Author: Samantha Wheeler

Publisher: University of Queensland Press – UQP

Publication date: August 3, 2021

Themes: action, adventure, community, courage, environment, family, friendship, hope, resilience, Tasmanian devils, wildlife conservation.

Additional notable information: Teachers’ Notes can be downloaded from the UQP website.

Devils in Danger by Samantha Wheeler and published by University of Queensland Press (UQP) is an engaging and inspiring wildlife story about Tasmanian Devils and the quest to educate a community about them. It’s also a story about being devoted to a cause and the challenges, as well as the positive and negative impacts that can arise when you defend something that is not necessarily popular or is misunderstood.

This story is set in a small coastal town in Tasmania and begins with unprecedented events suddenly occurring; furious screams in the night and clothing items mysteriously disappearing. It is eleven year old Killarney who discovers the unlikely culprit in the form of a Tasmanian devil denning under her family’s home. While Killarney is captivated by this creature and smitten by its endearing features, it soon becomes apparent that not everyone shares her opinion about these animals. Many of the people in her town are misinformed about Tasmanian devils and this lack of knowledge sparks fear, threats, rumours, intolerance and unkindness in an attempt to rid the town of this Tasmanian devil and her joey’s.

After observing the Tasmanian devils (Killarney names the mother Fern and her imps Bella and Benjamin) and working with Professor April Summers, a Wildlife Zoologist, Killarney’s knowledge, appreciation and devotion to demystifying these animals by raising awareness about them becomes her mission. She is determined and relentless in her approach. Her focus and refusal to let anything, including rifts between her friends as well as the community, rumours and doubt (both self-doubt and that of others) deter her from succeeding in her mission is both inspiring and admirable. Will Killarney’s determination pay off, or will the community band together to see Fern and her joeys removed?

This is a thrilling story with relatable characters for children 8+. Killarney does not enjoy school, she sees it as irrelevant and struggles with writing (even though it is not mentioned in the story, my daughter who has dyslexia is convinced by the information in the story that Killarney may also have dyslexia). Killarney shows that when given the opportunity to explore something that piques her interest, great and unimagined outcomes can be achieved. Killarney’s perseverance and her passion for Tasmanian devils fill her with sheer determination. She employs creative thinking and problem solving strategies in an effort to advocate for these animals, educate her community about them and put measures in place to protect them.

Killarney is dogged in her resolve, however, unfortunately this is not enough to make her (or as life shows us, anyone) immune from setbacks and heartbreak. Killarney uses these adversities to motivate herself and to ensure these animals are respected and protected.

Seamlessly peppered throughout this story are fascinating facts about Tasmanian devils which enhance the readers knowledge and understanding about these creatures. A host of practical ways readers can help these animals are also included, many of which relate to everyday practises.

This story has certainly made us pause and consider Tasmanian devils. It has helped to instil a deep appreciation for them and an awareness of the useful role they play in Tasmania. This story gives readers the courage to dare to dream and believe that one individual can be a powerful force for change. Samantha Wheeler has written other books with wildlife themes, including: Smooch and Rose, Mister Cassowary, Wombat Warriors and Turtle Trackers, these would make excellent companion stories.

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