In Wilam: A Birrarung Story, we enter an Indigenous world which is presented in full page colour illustrations in acrylics, by Indigenous artist Lisa Kennedy. As the Woiwurrung language does not translate directly into English, many of the words used in this stunning book are in their original language. There is a detailed glossary with miniature illustrations at the end with all the definitions of the words used.
The significance and beauty of this publication cannot be understated, as it is also a dedication to William Barak, Wurundjeri Ngurungaeta, 1874. It opens up opportunity for those that are interested in learning about Australia’s traditional landowners, the history of the Yarra and the birds and animals that called it home, to research, read and learn.
Melbournians will be familiar with Birrarung Marr, the magnificent gardens next to Federation Square on the Yarra. Birrarung means river of mists, referring to the Yarra. Marr refers to the side of the river.
Brilliant colours swirl and curve. Muted ones create branches for birds and night skies. Earthy colours and golden yellows and greens show off the native plants. Owls nest on rough trees as turtles and fish of various kinds swim in the serpentine rivulet.
Crows and birds fill the sky. Wombats and ducks nest with their young in burrows and marshes. A large Wedge-tailed eagle complements the starry background. Leadbeater’s possum makes his home in a tree hole. The rain soaks the aged earth.
The book is a festival of artwork. Stunning and poetic in structure and meaning, it’s a welcomed lesson in Indigenous culture and language. Aunty Jo Murphy and Andrew Kelly have created a magnificent example of the excellence our Indigenous history and its significance and place in our life today. A spectacular explosion of colour takes place on every page. It’s truly a book of extraordinary beauty and value.
Title: Wilam: A Birrarung Story
Author: Aunty Joy Murphy and Andrew Kelly
Illustrator: Lisa Kennedy
Publisher: Walker Books, $24.99
Publication Date: 1 April 2019
For ages: 6+
Type: Indigenous Australian Children’s Picture Book
Reviewed by: Anastasia Gonis KBR reviewer
Anastasia Gonis has been reviewing books for over twenty years. Her reviews and interviews have appeared in Bookseller & Publisher, Good Reading magazine, Australian Book Review, The Age, The Herald Sun, AllWrite, and many other publications. Anastasia currently writes both articles and reviews. She loves all books, in particular children’s books which for her, contain beauty and joy between the covers. You can read her KBR reviews and articles here.