Main Abija My Grandad
Allen & Unwin, 2021
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
As the loss of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh is dominating headlines, the special relationship we have with our grandfathers has been thrown sharply into focus – the memories we made, the things we were taught… particularly if he, too, has passed and so there can be no more.
And so it is for Ngukurr great grandmother Karen Rogers who reflects on all that she learned from her grandfather, the adventures they add, the memories they made and how she is passing it all on to her grandchildren and great grandchildren in this enchanting story told in both her own Kriol language and English and illustrated with her bold illustrations, a talent inherited from her grandmother and great-aunts. From school holidays spent on his outstation at Wuyagiba “near the saltwater” where he was a stockman, she recalls travelling in the old Toyota troopy to go fishing and swimming, and learning about the land, its bounty and its secrets while they were there.
The stories are told in words and pictures that are inseparable, as the best picture books are, and the feelings of connection and the unending circle of life are strong. It offers a wonderful opportunity to not only see how the author’s memories are common to all of us – there will be many, like me, who have sat and listened to their granddad tell stories as the sun sets over the ocean (or anywhere) or had their first fishing lessons under his guidance – but also to reflect on other memories and what they have already learned, despite being so young, that they will pass onto their own children. Sitting in my loungeroom, untouched for years because I never mastered it is an expensive Yamaha piano, bought purely because of the memory of sitting on my grandfather’s knee while he played to me!
Even though this is a story personal and unique to Ms Rogers, it is, at the same time, a universal one – and stories come no better than that.