‘Narragunnawali’ – peace, alive, wellbeing and coming together. A word that lies at the heart of Reconciliation in Schools and Early Learning and aims to ‘increase respect; reduce prejudice and strengthen relationships between the wider Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.’ With National Reconciliation Week in full swing (27 May to 3 June), it’s high time we celebrate the wealth of gifted indigenous artists that go to great pains to share their histories and cultures. Here is but a smattering of titles that embrace imagination and time honoured fable telling.
Although not of indigenous background, debut picture book team, Lisa Miranda Sarzin and Lauren Briggs have united to produce Stories for Simon, ‘a story of a shared dream and bright future’.
Simon is your typical Sydney nine-year-old boy who one day, through his show and tell presentation, stumbles upon the moment in history when an apology to the Stolen Generation was finally voiced. As this sparks discussion and learning in Simon’s classroom, so too will this sensitive narrative encourage interest and understanding in school children as it outlines what the Stolen Generation is and why saying sorry is just the start of the journey towards ‘peace and coming together’. Filled with tangible emotion and magic, Stories for Simon reveals tragedies and fosters empathy in a brave, provocative coming together of two cultures.
This picture book provides another crucial element in the quest to procure and sustain reconciliation amongst our future generations and thus is an excellent introduction to it.
Random House for Children May 2015
Gregg Dreise’s Kookoo Kookaburra and Sally Morgan’s and Ezekiel Kwaymullina’s Magpie Learns a Lesson, are two new picture books, which focus on Dreamtime aphorisms and fables. The message in both is to be kind and respect the feelings of others.
Kookoo Kookaburra, an ace storyteller, falls out of grace with his bushland friends when his good-natured storytelling deteriorates to hurtful personal ridiculing. He must learn to listen and observe more and speak less, whilst distributing kindness more genuinely, because we all know, that is the surest way to have kindness returned.
Magpie is another wily winged character who discovers that empathy and kindness strengthen friendships far better than teasing and jokes do. Fortunately for him, his best mate, Brown Falcon is wise and patient enough to standby him when disaster strikes.
Both the illustrations of Dreise and those of Tania Erzinger, have a textual fascination that enriches these beautiful tales. Well suited to lower and mid primary.
Magabala Books May 2015
Omnibus Books February 2015
Sally Morgan teams once again with her son, Ezekiel Kwaymullina on a series of early chapter books, aimed at developing readers. Each has a cast of indigenous characters who star in family orientated stories (there is usually a grandpa or grandma involved somehow).
Going Bush with Grandpa was the first. I liked One Rule for Jack. Flying High is number four in the series. Bright, breezy narratives with twerky little endings all generously illustrated by the iconic Craig Smith will keep smiles on faces for a long, long time.
Omnibus Books Feb 2014 – April 2015
Being at one and living in peace and synchronicity with nature are fundamental in indigenous culture. Animals are intrinsically linked to totems and dreaming stories, which when passed down through generations, ensures continued appreciation and understanding of one’s sense of place. Uncle Joe Kirk and Sandi Harrold, offer retellings of indigenous stories with a desire to educate and preserve.
Duelgum – The story of the mother eel, is a captivating travelog of the journey of the mysterious eel that instils a powerful sense of belonging, underpinning the sanctity of home as a place one can always return.
Budinge and the Min Min Lights, draws kids into Budinge’s world as his imagination threatens to keep him hiding under the bedcovers forever. Full of joy and spirited illustration, this is a lovely example of how we sometimes allow situations to get the better of us.
Scholastic Australia January 2015
Imagine a tree that grows the best tasting toast in the world. The Toast Tree by Corina Martin and Fern Martins is a very special book about a very special tree.
Two young girls anticipate their grandpa’s daily return with rapture because he always brings them the sweetest, creamiest slices of golden-brown toast. Apparently produced on a magic tree that grows deep amongst the sand dunes, only he knows its location and only he can harvest its bounty, otherwise the magic will stop. Like all young people, the desire to discover this magic is intense so, heedless of their uncle’s warning, Mia and Ella search for the toast tree every day, but never find it.
I applaud the subtle duality of this tale; balancing the power of imagination and willingness to believe with the desire to instil magic and parent with love.
Martins’ illustrations are a step sideways from the sometimes-sombre tones of indigenous illustrations too. Colours zing and vibrate with liveliness reflective of the girls’ enthusiasm and convince you that you actually taste the tang of the sea wind as it races across the dunes and tickles your cheeks.
A delicious addition to your picture book collection and gorgeous example of talent coupled with passion.
Magabala Books April 2015
Keep an eye out for more posts on books with indigenous flavour and verve, coming soon. Meantime take a moment to reflect on the milestones and meanings of National Reconciliation Week and what they mean to us all as a Nation.