Tuesday 27 April 2021

πŸ“– Publication Day Book Review ~ Gone by Michael Blencowe

Leaping Hare Press
27 April 2021

My thanks to the publishers and Alison Menzies PR for my copy of this book

Inspired by his childhood obsession with extinct species, Michael Blencowe takes us around the globe from the forests of New Zealand to the ferries of Finland, from the urban sprawl of San Francisco to an inflatable crocodile on Brighton’s Widewater lagoon. 

Spanning five centuries from the last sighting of New Zealand’s Upland Moa to the death of Lonesome George, the Pinta Island Giant Tortoise in 2012, his memoir is peppered with the accounts of the hunters and naturalists of the past as well as revealing conversations with the custodians of these totemic animals today. With charm and insight he reveals what made these species unique; what their habits and habitats were; who discovered (or killed) them; what remains of them; and where we can view what survives of them today. 


He inspects the only known remains of a Huia egg at Te Papa, New Zealand; views hundreds of specimens of deceased Galapagos tortoises and Xerces Blue Butterflies in the California Academy of Sciences; and pays his respects to the only soft tissue remains of the Dodo in the world.

Xerces Blue Butterfly

πŸ“– My Thoughts..

Whenever I read about creatures who are no longer with us I realise just how transitory is our time on earth when whole species can be wiped out, especially as our surviving knowledge comes largely from those who hunted them to extinction in the first place. I'm thinking of those who travelled the globe discovering such rarities as giant tortoises in the GalΓ‘pagos, the majestic Dodo bird in Mauritius or in the midst of the American gold rush, the stunning Xerces Blue butterflies of San Francisco.

Dodo bird

The book is divided into easy to enjoy sections, not filled with interminable references that you need a reference book to look up, but more about the homely nature of each creature, the places they made their home, the people who found them, the reasons for their extinction, and also about the custodians who look after, so carefully, the little pieces of them which remain.

Here are the creatures you will find in Gone :

The Great Auk. Majestic flightless seabird of the North Atlantic and the ‘original penguin’.
The Spectacled Cormorant. The ‘ludicrous bird’ from the remote islands of the Bering Sea.
Steller’s Sea Cow. An incredible ten tonne dugong with skin as furrowed as oak bark.
Upland Moa. The improbable birds and the one time rulers of New Zealand.
Huia. The unique bird with two beaks and twelve precious tail feathers.
South Island Kōkako. The ‘orange-wattled crow’, New Zealand’s elusive Grey Ghost
Xerces Blue. The gossamer-winged butterfly of the San Francisco sand dunes.The Pinta Island Tortoise. The slow-moving, long-lived giant of the GalΓ‘pagos Islands.
Dodo. The superstar of extinction.
Schomburgk’s Deer. A mysterious deer from the wide floodplains of central Thailand.
Ivell’s Sea Anemone. A see-through sea creature known only from southern England.

Gone is a very readable account of some of those creatures who have literally gone, disappeared, vamoosed into the ether, but with clever words and pictures they again walk along the corridors of our imagination. Michael Blencowe uses his expert knowledge and deep love of the natural world to introduce us to some of the world's extinct creatures, and in doing so opens up an abundance of information you never knew you needed to know about some of those forgotten creatures who exist only as specimens in dusty museums or highlighted on the pages of natural history encyclopedias.

The beautiful illustrations which grace the pages of the book are by artist Jade They ( instagram @jade_they)

About the Author

Michael Blencowe lives in West Sussex where he works and volunteers for a number of wildlife conservation charities, and writes for many local publications. He was co-author, with Neil Hulme, of The Butterflies of Sussex and has produced a factual insert on caterpillars for Julia Donaldson’sforthcoming children’s book, The Woolly Bear. 

During the first Lockdown he used the observations of nature in his own garden to produce the hugely popular 100 Day Wildlife Diary for the Sussex Wildlife Trust. He is a regular speaker at events. His passion for wildlife began in his South Devon childhood where he first encountered tales of the last British Bird to be declared extinct, The Great Auk.

Twitter @LeapingHareBooks #MichaelBlencowe #Gone



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