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Tell ’em!

Tell 'em!

Tell ’em!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell ’em!

Katrina Germein, Rosemary Sullivan with the children of Manyallaluk School

Karen Briggs

Working Title Press, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781921504921

It starts with a little girl answering a question asked by an unseen asker  – I know what you should tell ’em – and, apparently prompted by that unseen asker asking ‘what else?”, continues with a joyous celebration of the lives of the children as they share the activities of their community and country.  And even though the children of this remote community live about an hour east of Katherine, NT much of what they do and enjoy is very similar to what all children enjoy because kids are kids, everywhere.

Tell ’em how us kids like to play.
We got bikes and give each other rides.
Tell ’em about the dancing and singing,
And all the stories the old people know.

Yes, there are things that may be unfamiliar like the buffalo and the crocodiles – “just freshwater ones” – and maybe families hunting for bush turkey, goanna and kangaroo for dinner might not be the norm for city kids but dancing and listening to stories and hunting for phone reception will all resonate.

But what threads through this achingly beautiful picture book apart from those similarities is the sheer delight and joy that these children have in their lives, the respect they have for their elders and their country and their understanding of the intertwining of the past, present and future.

I wonder what the children in our communities would share if they were asked the same question!

Maybe the first step could be figuring out the question these children were asked, and then given that most were so keen to get back to school after their enforced weeks at home, build a class response that helps them focus on why! 

A stunning, exuberant joyful celebration of being a child that has to make you smile.

 

 

Rocky and Louie

Rocky and Louie

Rocky and Louie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rocky and Louie

Phil Walleystack & Raewyn Caisley

Dub Leffler

Puffin, 2020

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

 9780143786528

Rocky is a star Aussie Rules player and his little brother Louie adores him.  Rocky has taught Louie all sorts of footballing skills but more than that, he has taught him about their country and how to engage with it to both use it and protect it.  After they made a proper hunting boomerang together, Rocky taught him how to respect the animals and even though they might kill them for food, how to think about where that food comes from.  Rocky taught and Louie learned the legends and lessons of the land, forging a strong bond that would ensure that they would endure.

But Rocky has a dream to become more than just a local football star and to do that he must leave.  Louie is devastated but Rocky knows that he must go, just as Louie must stay.  What could Louie offer him to make sure that Rocky doesn’t forget him or his roots despite the pull and the attractions of the city.

While this is a powerful story about the love and bonds shared between brothers, it has an even stronger message about being connected to our heritage whatever that may be.  In this case it is that of Australia’s indigenous people and the lessons Rocky teaches Louie will help the reader understand that deep connection to country that our Aboriginal peoples have, helping them appreciate why they felt so bereft when so many were uprooted ruthlessly from families, events commemorated on  National Sorry Day on May 26. The theme of responsibility and respect for what has gone before that has shaped us into who we are now is very strong, but it also opens up the prospect of having to deal with change, with having to be unselfish and let others follow their destiny regardless of the impact on our comfort zone, and accepting and acknowledging that we are who we are because of those around us and we must be the best we can be to honour that and them. 

Co-written with Noongar man and emerging elder, Phil Walleystack, Raewyn Caisley (who has already given us the hauntingly beautiful Hello from Nowhere and Something Wonderful ) views this as her legacy with “the power to change our nation”.  For so many reasons, she could well be right.

Dreaming Soldiers

Dreaming Soldiers

Dreaming Soldiers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreaming Soldiers

Catherine Bauer

Shane McGrath

Big Sky, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925675528

Jimmy Watson and Johnno Hogan were the best of friends – swimming-in-waterholes, camping-under-the-stars, sharing-water-bottles kind of friends. Throughout their lives they did everything together and even when their paths diverged because there were different rules and expectations for “white” and indigenous children then, they still came back together as close as they had ever been.  And then one day they went into town for supplies, heeded the call for men to fight in a war far away and enlisted…

This could be the story of any number of friendships of the early 20th century when ‘white’ and indigenous kids on farms formed friendships that were blind to colour, cultural differences or any other racial prejudices and its strong focus on that friendship is its positive. While the treatment of indigenous soldiers during the conflicts that Australia has been involved in since the Boer War in 1899 could have been its focus, its power lies in that spotlight on the friendship, the shared adventures and stories, the fears and hopes that are common regardless of skin colour. Teaching notes are available. 

As we prepare to commemorate an ANZAC Day like no other in living memory, with services online and driveway commemorations, this is a book to be shared at this time so we can think about the sacrifices made by those who have gone before to keep us safe, and renew our commitment to what we have to do now to keep others safe.  And if you can’t get this one in time for this year, there are plenty of other suggestions here

 

 

Landing with Wings

Landing with Wings

Landing with Wings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landing with Wings

Trace Balla

Allen & Unwin, 2020

80pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99

9781760296957

Mira and her mother are moving from their home near the sea to the goldfields of the Bendigo area, somewhere very foreign to Mira and she has no idea what to expect.  Her life is being turned upside down and she writes a farewell letter to her favourite tea-tree, beginning her recording of this new adventure which is scary but also a teeeeeny bit exciting. “Just a bit. It’s sort of like not knowing what’s on the next page and wanting to turn it to see what happens.”

Like Miri, Trace Balla loves to observe nature by sketching it and so, inspired by a story she saw about a refugee Syrian girl in an Australian detention centre whose future was equally uncertain, she has taken Miri on this journey of having her life upended and gradually discovering this new place, one that takes her back to her indigenous roots of the Dja Dja Wurrung people until she finally finds her home.

This is another intriguing graphic novel from the creator of Rivertime and  Rockhopping  that is just as extraordinary as those predecessors because of the levels and layers within the story. While  on the surface it seems like a personal recount of moving from one place to another, emphasised by the first-person narrative and hand-written font, there is also a bigger picture journey being told, that of anyone whose life is suddenly and permanently disrupted and having to find their place in a new landscape, whether that is physical, emotional or metaphorical. If they are lucky, they will land with wings and with the insight of someone like Trace Balla to guide them, they will learn to reflect on their experience and understand how it has shaped them just as much as the original catalyst.

A silver lining of this current situation of isolation is that we now have the time to read and appreciate this book in all its nuances, for we have each had our own journeys and this encourages us to revisit, review and reflect on them and their impact. It is just what we need at this time to get our lives back into perspective and see the whole rather than just the daily detail, yet, as Balla illustrates, it is the daily detail that builds up the whole. 

 

Coming Home To Country

Coming Home To Country

Coming Home To Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming Home To Country

Bronwyn Bancroft

Little Hare, 2020

24pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781760501921

The saying “there’s no place like home” has never been expressed so poignantly as in this new book from leading indigenous artist Bronwyn Bancroft who always creates a visual feast accompanied by lyrical text. The young girl is coming home across the old wrinkled hills, through the palette of “leaf green, red rust, yellow ochre, deep blue and crimson”  to draw in the breath of the valley, listen to the bird orchestra, slip into crystal clear waters and be held in the embrace of her ancestors. 

“This is peace” and even with its bright colours and traditional busy patterns, that is exactly the feeling that is evoked by the gentle words as they envelop the reader. With the tumultuous summer we are experiencing with such weather extremes and the insatiable fire dragon, this is the book that we and our children need so we can retreat to somewhere safe and know that there is the evidence that Mother Nature will prevail if we would only listen to those who have cared for the land for generations. In her dedication she urges her “three warriors” to keep rallying for change so that “all children can have hope for the future” and know that the fire-ravaged, desecrated landscape that they are seeing right now can heal.

A timely release as we seek to comfort those for whom everything currently seems bleak and black and silent so they know that there can and will be colour and noise and life again soon. 

Land of the Echidna People

Land of the Echidna People

Land of the Echidna People

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Land of the Echidna People

Percy Trezise

Mary Lavis

Angus & Robertson, 2019

32pp, hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781460756614

“Aboriginal oral history tells of hundreds of Dream Roads criss-crossing the Australian continent which were made by Ancestral Beings during their travels at the beginning of the Dreamtime. It also tells of a vast freshwater lake at the top of Australia and stories about ancestors like the Anta Moola sisters. There is also scientific evidence to suggest that 36 000 years ago there was a large freshwater lake at the top of Australia. Scientist called it the Lake of Carpentaria…and it was also known as Balanorga, the big water.”

The Journey of the Great Lake series tells the story of Jadianta, Lande and Jalmor, three children of the Kadimakara People who were caught in a storm and stranded across the great lake, Balanorga and their quest to return to their homeland as they journey around Balanorga, along the Dream Road of the Anta Moola sisters to find their way home.  The series, first published 20 years ago, comprises Home Of The Kadimakara People, Land of the Dingo People, Land of the Magpie Goose People ,  Land of the Emu People, Land of the Snake PeopleLand of the Kangaroo People, Land of the Brolga People  and the final in the series, Land of the Echidna People . 

Written at a time when there was very little indigenous literature for young readers  available, the series was and is a valuable addition to the resources supporting studies of Aboriginal cultures, providing young readers with an insight into the life and lands of northern Australia 30 000 years ago

 

 

 

My Culture and Me

My Culture and Me

My Culture and Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Culture and Me

Gregg Dreise

Puffin, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780143789376

Feel the rhythm of the music, from your heart down to your feet.

Enjoy the movements of melodies, as clapsticks keep a strong beat.

This is my culture. This is me. 

Beginning with preparing for a corroboree  with the relationships between the land and the body art to the way stories and beliefs and practices are passed from older to younger, helping both indigenous and non-indigenous children understand the connection to country that is such an integral part of Aboriginal culture.  

Beautifully written and illustrated, My Culture and Me is a heartfelt and stirring story of cherishing and sustaining Indigenous cultures, although there is relevance and applicability to all cultures whatever they may be, especially if the message of his dedication is read in its broadest terms…

To my children…and the children of Australia. You are the next generation of our Dreaming Circles, Everything that we do should look after this country, so it continues to look after our future generations.

An important addition to your indigenous literature collection and curriculum.

 

Wilam

Wilam

Wilam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilam – A Birrarung Story

Aunty Joy Murphy & Andrew Kelly

Lisa Kennedy

Black Dog Books, 2019

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781925381764

As ngua rises, Bunjil soars over mountain ash, flying higher and higher as the wind warms. Below, Birrarung begins its long winding path down to palem warreen. Wilam – home.

In this stunning new picture book, Yarra Riverkeeper Andrew Kelly joins award-winning picture book duo Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy to tell the Indigenous and geographical story of Melbourne’s beautiful Yarra river, from its source to its mouth; from its pre-history to the present day. Using many of the words of the Woiwurrung language for places and things, the reader is taken on a journey that not only embraces this much-maligned river but also draws the reader into the journey as they use Lisa Kennedy’s beautiful artworks to interpret the text. This makes for a remarkable sensory experience as you are engrossed in the beauty and diversity of the river.

2019 has been declared by the UN to be the International Year of Indigenous Languages and this is the perfect addition to a collection celebrating this.  Not only does it embed the language of the people whose lands were focused around Birrarung into a context that makes sense to all readers, it also exemplifies the connection between text and illustrations as readers must use the one to understand the other. 

A must-have.

 

Bush Tracks

Bush Tracks

Bush Tracks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bush Tracks

Ros Moriarty

Balarinji

Allen & Unwin, 2018

24pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760297824

“Follow the bush tracks over the rocks and stones to the coastal hunting grounds…” but be careful as you do because there are wondrous things to see and hidden dangers to avoid along the way. Make a spear, find the fresh water where there seems to be only salty, make a fire to tell others of your approach,  catch a crab in the light of the full moon…

Accompanied by vivid, authentic artworks full of colour and detail that we need to pay as much to as the track we are on, this is a call to venture outside and be as in tune with our surroundings as the traditional owners of this country are. The text speaks directly to the reader, inviting them to be part of this adventure and discovery.

This is the perfect introduction for littlies to the lifestyle of those who have been here for so long, as they investigate what is needed to sustain them.  Most will have accompanied a parent to the supermarket to buy food, but what if there were no supermarkets?  Help them track their thinking back to a time, which still exists, where self-sufficiency is critical for survival. 

Central to the illustrations is the track of the journey and while you might not be able to take your young readers to the “coastal hunting grounds”, you can take them around the school or a nearby park, mapping and photographing the journey and speculating on what might live or depend on the natural elements that you pass.  Investigating and demonstrating the importance of the flora to the fauna, the cycle of the seasons, and the symbiotic interdependence  of Nature regardless of the habitat within which it exists is critical if we are to grow children who appreciate and value their natural environment as much as their built one.

Like its companion, What’s That There? Bush Tracks has a translation of the English into the Yanyuwa language (spoken in families in Borroloola , NT) at the end allowing the young readers of those families to see and read stories in their own language as part of the author’s Indi Kindi initiative as well as demonstrating the power of story regardless of the language spoken, offering those who do not have English as their first language an opportunity to share their mother tongue and its stories. 

Both What’s That There? and Bush Tracks are prime examples of the power of picture books for all ages – done well, there is something for all ages of reader!

What’s That There?

What's That There?

What’s That There?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s That There?

Ros Moriarty

Balarinji

Allen & Unwin, 2017 

24pp., pbk., RRP $A12.99

9781760297817

Australia is more than a landscape of endless red plains and grey-green gum trees, and in this vividly illustrated book younger readers are encouraged to look more closely at the landscape around them.

Using a predictable text pattern of both question and answer and repetition, the reader is invited to examine the bird’s-eye view of the landscape and engage with the illustrations to identify what it is the bird sees.

What’s that there?

“That’s the rushing river’s curly bend,” cries the sea eagle perched on a swaying, knotted branch. “There, look!”

And in stunning pictures, based on traditional Aboriginal designs and created by Balarinji established by the author and her husband, the astute young reader can indeed pick out the river winding through and the sea eagle from its on-high perch.  Or the hawk soaring over the “cliff face sharp with sun-scorched stones glinting”. Or “the dry, cracked billabong sleeping”  that the stick-bug clinging to the peeling tree bark sees.

As well as being a celebration of the country and its creatures, the poetic text and the stunning illustrations introduce landscapes that may be familiar but but are unseen as we race through life, not pausing to see things through artistic or linguistic eyes, Not only does it encourage us to slow down and think about what we are seeing, it also offers a different perspective.  What do the tops of the grey-green bush look like to the magpies, currawongs and crimson rosellas that are always flying over and around my house? What do they make of the dun coloured, drought-affected grasses that stretch between the trees? 

Understanding and using the bird’s-eye view perspective where things are seen from above, often an unfamiliar angle for our little ones, is a difficult concept to grasp and yet it is an essential skill of mapping and “unplugged coding” so this book is an intriguing way of introducing them to that concept, perhaps even challenging them to try their hand at interpreting their own surroundings from such a perspective. 

 For those who want to explore a different aspect, there is a translation of the English into the Yanyuwa language (spoken in families in Borroloola , NT) at the end which not only allows the young readers of those families to see and read stories in their own language as part of the author’s Indi Kindi initiative but also demonstrates that not everyone speaks English as their first language offering the opportunity to explore the languages spoken by classmates and families and celebrate the value of that first language.  

For a seemingly simple, 24 page book there is so much packed into this, it is a must-have in your collection.

More artwork created by Balarinji

More artwork created by Balarinji