Guest Review: Wilam: A Birrarung Story

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

Format: Hardcover

ISBN: 9781925381764

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.


Published by

Dimity Powell

Dimity Powell likes to fill every spare moment with words. She writes and reviews stories exclusively for kids and is the Managing Editor for Kids’ Book Review. Her word webs appear in anthologies, school magazines, junior novels, as creative digital content, and picture books - you'll find them all here at Boomerang Books. Dimity is a useless tweeter, sensational pasta maker and semi-professional chook wrangler. She believes picture books are food for the soul and should be consumed at least 10 times a week.