Tag Archives: Indigenous illustrators

Guardians: Wylah the Koorie Warrior 1- Jordan Gould/Richard Pritchard

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Allen & Unwin

May 2022

ISBN:9781761180033

Imprint: Albert Street Books

RRP: $15.99

This is definitely something different and a series to be watched. These two creators have drawn their narrative from all quarters: speculative fiction in its broadest sense – fantasy, sci fi, larger than life events, incorporating adventure, humour, and drawing on First Australians culture, history and spiritual beliefs.

Wylah has many fine qualities. She is helping to teach the children of her tribe, she not only loves but tends the mega-fauna creatures of her world, she is kind, determined and brave but she knows well she is no warrior yet, not like her beautiful Grandmother.

When her entire family and people are captured by a frightening dragon army, Wylah must gather her courage, and use all her wits and skills to rescue them. As she undertakes this perilous quest, her culture and her people underlie the help she is given as she takes on the role of Guardian.

There is no doubt that it will take some getting used to. Realistically, none of us are used to reading stories where anyone keeps mega-fauna as pets! But I love that this bold new series is taking Aboriginal culture and story-telling to a new audience with new ideas, whilst incorporating traditional beliefs.

I, for one, am looking forward to the next instalment. Highly recommended for readers from around Year 5 upwards.

Ceremony: Welcome to Our Country – Adam Goodes & Ellie Laing. Illustrated by David Hardy.

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Allen & Unwin

April 2022

ISBN: 9781761065064

RRP: $24.99

Oh David Hardy, you have excelled yourself!

I think we have all been eagerly anticipating the next title in this Welcome to Our Country series, the joyful introduction to First Nations history for younger readers, especially given the triumph of the first title Somebody’s Land. For me, this new addition surpasses that first, with not only another superb text which perfectly expresses the meaning and importance of Ceremony for our Aboriginal people but with David’s illustrations which just completely win me over. Frankly, they always do but the utter expressiveness and joyous delight in the faces of the book’s characters is just sensational!  The gorgeous artwork also depicts traditional landscapes and the native wildlife which would have surrounded those living on Country and little readers will love spotting and naming these.

Welcome, children!
Nangga! Nangga! Yakarti!
Tonight will be our Ceremony.

This is about family, tradition, Country and culture and for non-Aboriginal children provides a deceptively simple and vivid insight into the history of the world’s oldest continuous culture. I particularly love those words from Adam’s language group, the Adnyamthanha, featured throughout, with the bonus of a visual glossary via the glorious endpapers (yes, that’s me – always obsessed with endpapers!). Additionally, a QR code allows readers to listen to the story and hear the words for themselves – what an absolutely fabulous idea! 

Once again, a rhythmic rhyming text will have your little ones chanting along with you at every reading and, no doubt, they will be up on their feet ready to ‘shake a leg’ themselves.  In my opinion, these are simply a must for your collection – home, library or classroom – as we are all ready to move our great country closer towards a true conciliation between all our people. This year with the upcoming CBCA Book Week theme along with a terrifically powerful NAIDOC theme, is the prime time to be curating your collection of First Nations kid lit.  I not only highly recommend them for your readers from early childhood upwards but strongly urge you to rush out and add them to your catalogue.

We Are Australians – Duncan Smith & Nicole Godwin/Jandamarra Cadd

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My review of this truly superb new picture book is now live at Kids Book Review – please do yourself a favour and check it out, then rush out and buy it. It is truly amazeballs!

Papa Mawal-mawalpa Tjuta – Johanna Bell-nga & Dion Beasley-nyu

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Allen & Unwin

August 2021

ISBN:9781760526696

Edition No: Pitjantjatjara

Publisher: A&U Children’s

Imprint: A & U Children

RRP: $24.99

Mantaina anu ngayuku kuntiliku walikutu. Nyaana puta nyangu?

This is the beginning of the  Pitjantjatjara version of 2016’s award-winning book Too Many Cheeky Dogs.  Pitjantjatjara is a First Nations language widely spoken in central and southern Australia, It is long overdue that our children’s books be translated into First Nation languages and let’s hope we see many more forthcoming.

Of course, we don’t all speak Pitjantjatjara but don’t worry – there is an English translation included at the back of the book – or you could share both editions – Standard English and  Pitjantjatjara – in the same unit of work. Help your jarjums learn their colours, numbers and days of the week bi-lingually this year!!

On Monday I walked to my auntie’s house and guess what I saw?

Born to Run (picture book edition) – Cathy Freeman. Illustrated by Charmaine Ledden-Lewis.

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Penguin Australia

  • November 2021
  • ISBN: 9781761043802
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $24.99

There are some moments in Australia’s sporting history that are just complete standouts: Bradman’s first international century or, indeed, his final ‘duck’, Australia II crossing the finish line in the America’s Cup, Adam Scott’s US Masters playoff win or Cadel Evans’ triumph in the Tour de France, and Cathy Freeman’s Olympic glory is right up there alongside all of these. Those of us who were fortunate to witness her success still remember it very clearly. In fact, I was in Cairns having taken my late mother on a holiday and we happened to be in the casino at the time – the whole place came to a standstill as we watched Catherine Astrid Salome Freeman OAM blaze a trail for her mob, her country and her own personal victory.

Cathy’s memoir was a hugely successful book and now, younger readers, can follow her life story and her determination to succeed in this beautifully realised picture book. The facts of Cathy’s life and sporting career are easy to come by but the inspiration she can provide to young people, whether Australian or otherwise, is what sets this book apart.

Cathy’s words are, in and of themselves, a great recollection of her story but for young people, the illustrations from Charmaine Ledden-Lewis will not only truly bring this to life but to the forefront of their personal ambitions. I particularly love that Cathy concludes with her own Top 10 tips for kids to keep in mind as they pursue their own dreams.


This is a superb addition to your collection both as a fine example of First Nations literature and as a wonderful encouragement for your students, of all abilities. I highly recommend it to you for readers from around Year 2 upwards. I will certainly be suggesting it to our Year 3 cohort as they focus quite heavily on cross-cultural perspectives.

Today’s Sun – Gregg Dreise

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Penguin Australia

  • Published: 31 August 2021
  • ISBN: 9781760898335
  • Imprint: Picture Puffin
  • RRP: $14.99

Gregg‘s name has been bandied around quite a bit in the past week in our library after I suggested engaging him for next year’s Book Week visiting author for our younger students. He is the most marvellously warm and engaging speaker who elicits such a fabulous response from his audience as well as being such a hugely talented creator. How fortunate we are that he’s a wonderful Queenslander and a proud Kamilaroi and Euahlayi man, who passes on culture, unity, healing and knowledge through his music, storytelling and performances.

Anyone who has seen Gregg’s books will know what a talented artist and writer he is and they are all well loved but I almost think that this new board book with it’s black and white line illustrations, has stolen my heart even more than the others. Perhaps its because I’ve watched Gregg sit in our library and create one of his remarkable drawings but more likely, I think, because I love that children will be able to imagine their own colour choices for each scene.

Gregg, please we need some activity sheets because our kiddos are definitely going to want and make these illustrations their own!! Of course, if you buy these beautiful board book for a child in your circle they will be able to colour the book itself and possibly, with some medium, that can then be wiped clean for a different take on the scene.

Take your little jarjums on a sunny day excursion and watch them bounce like a kangaroo or play hide-and-seek like a camouflaged tawny until they are ready to snuggle like a little, fuzzy koala.

I cannot recommend Gregg’s work highly enough and this little book will not only be a perfect gift for a new little babe in your family or circle of friends but a beautiful addition for an early childhood collection.

Heroes, Rebels and Innovators – Karen Wyld. Illustrated by Jaelyn Biumaiwai.

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Hachette

July 2021

ISBN: 9780734419835

RRP: $26.99

As NAIDOC 2021 draws to a close, this is such an important book to share with you, examining as it does the lives and incredible actions of seven inspirational First Australian heroes. Each of these amazing Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander figures contributed in immensely important ways to their people and to our nation, though some have been sadly overlooked in the general terms of history. How fitting it is that this book sheds light on not only some whose names are known to contemporary society but also some whose stories have been side-lined.

As far back as the arrival of the Europeans comes the first of these inspiring stories with the account of Patyegarang, the Darug woman who worked closely with Lt Dawes, officer and scientist with the First Fleet. These two worked together each learning the language of the other and compiling a list of Aboriginal words. The discovery of Dawe’s writings in 1972 has helped to revive the Darug language and, though we have no knowledge of Patyegarang after Dawe’s departure back to England, her legacy lives on with this important record.

The stories of the remaining six icons are just as fascinating: Bungaree, whose efforts were of such great aid to Matthew Flinders; Taronorerer, who rebelled against the white blackbirders and led her people in battle; Yarri and Jacky Jacky, rescuers of 69 people in the Gundagai floods of 1852; Mohara Wacando Lifu, first Indigenous woman to receive the Royal Humane Society’s Gold Medal for bravery; David Unaipon, known by many as the Black da Vinci and Fanny Balbuk Yooreel, resistance fighter and fierce protector of the environment.

Make no mistake each of these makes for compelling reading and the colourful spreads will engage readers’ interest in the text and give rise to much fruitful discussion.

Perfectly suited to classroom units of work exploring cross-cultural perspectives but also so very much worthwhile promoting as independent reading for readers from around year 3 upwards.

Highly recommended for your readers and your teachers alike..

Story Doctors – Boori Monty Pryor. Illustrated by Rita Sinclair.

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Allen & Unwin

July 2021

ISBN:9781760526559

Publishers; A & U Children’s

Imprint: A & U Children

RRP: $24.99

Timely in more ways than one, as once again so many parts of Australia and our people are anxious and fearful with the Covid pandemic again causing distress, and as we approach NAIDOC 2021 with its significant and meaningful theme of “Heal Country”, Boori’s new book is a song from his heart.

Prior to the initial outbreak of Covid in 2020, Boori had predicted that Australia was going to become sick, as a result of our country’s painful and, as yet, unresolved shared history, this litany of injustices, cruelty and wilful misunderstandings. And while the 2020 Covid lockdown in Melbourne raged around him, Boori took to words to write a prescription for healing our country so that we can move forward with true understanding and respect in our hearts.

Described as both a story and a history this is, to my mind, a richly empowering epic poem which resonates with such heartfelt emotion that it cannot fail to move the reader with its carefully chosen words and imagery. The superb illustrations by Rita Sinclair lend both vibrancy and animation to the text and there are many pages at which the reader will gasp at the beauty of them.

As cathedrals echo time,

and footprints’ rhythm steps the rhyme,

prescriptions so sublime.

Boori has given us all a true treasure with this remarkable and deeply personal offering to the nation and it is one which very rightly deserves to be shared with readers over and over again. Many schools will be celebrating NAIDOC after the holidays and this would be the ideal choice for a shared reading at any assembly or within classrooms and libraries to prompt thoughtful discussion and unpack the meaning of NAIDOC’s 2021 theme. 

Green shoots so small,

to trees so tall.

Breathe,

believe.

It’s in the song…

…if we listen, we all belong.

What greater gift can we give our children – those ‘green shoots so small’ – than to help them grow in understanding, respect and true equality?  I urge you to get hold of this book as soon as you can and start the ripples by sharing it with your own children and classes, even your littler kiddos will be able to grasp the meaning if you help them navigate the beautiful text. Contact publicity@allenandunwin.com for more information

Highly recommended for all readers – young and old.  #Healcountry 

https://www.naidoc.org.au/resources/teaching-guides

The Emu Who Ran Through the Sky – Helen Milroy

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Magabala Books

April 2021

ISBN:
9781925936018

RRP: $22.99

This is the second in Helen Milroy’s exciting series Tales from the Bush Mob and will be as equally welcome as the first, Willy-willy Wagtail. Either as a read-aloud for your younger students or an independent read for your older ones this is definitely one to put on your list, especially with NAIDOC week coming up.

What is particularly lovely about this series is the message that working together with our friends and community we can solve problems which may otherwise seem insurmountable. The shared wisdom and experience of our friends can make all the difference and for Lofty the Emu, who desperately wants to win the big emu race but is too slow and clumsy, it is the knowledge and help of his bush mob mates who help him on his way to success.

Lofty seeks out his expert flier friends to teach him how to fly but as one might expect, despite their best efforts, emus are just not built for flying in the same way as Bat or Eagle or even Sugar Glider, so needs a solution that is completely unique. Luckily for Lofty, Platypus as the Bush Mob’s resident inventor, comes up with a very creative and highly effective solution which enables the emu to soar to success.

As some people might know the Emu in the Sky is a well-known Aboriginal astronomical constellation, with First Australians being the world’s first astronomers and this lively tale echoes this phenomena and will lead to discussions beyond that of written text. [In fact, it is the perfect time of year to observe this constellation.]

I strongly urge you to not only seek out this book to share with your children but to explore the night skies from another perspective.

Highly recommended for independent readers from around 6/7 years upwards – or as a fun read-aloud, as part of your cross-cultural perspective in your teaching program.

Took the Children Away – Archie Roach/Ruby Hunter

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Simon & Schuster Australia

October 2020

  • ISBN13: 9781760857219

RRP: $24.99

What a privilege to be asked to provide a review for this fabulous 30th anniversary edition of Archie’s book. This great man, 2020 Victorian Australian of the Year, member of the Order of Australia and recipient of countless other awards for his music, is one my family’s heroes, not just for his music but his tireless campaigning for First Australian people.

Archie and his soulmate, Ruby Hunter, were both stolen children, and this collaboration between them is a testament to both the talent of each and their determination to provide insight into the shame of the past. Included on his 1990 debut album, Charcoal Lane, this very personal and poignant song received the prestigious Australian Human Rights Award, the first ever to do so.

This absolutely stunning edition with its textured binding (just wonderful!) and glorious endpapers, as well as Ruby Hunter’s evocative illustrations includes historical photographs and recollections, scant as they may be, from Archie’s family. [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that this book contains images of people who are deceased or who may now be deceased.]

It has been longlisted for the 2021 ABIA Book of the Year for Younger Children award which, to my mind at least, speaks volumes.

Archie’s foundation has joined with ABC Education to create the Archie Roach Stolen Generations resources which will enable all educators to to “ignite a sense of place, belonging, community and identity for all Australians.” suitable for students from Year 3-10. You can find them here and I would urge to make full use of them with your students.

Needless to say this has my highest recommendation for students from lower primary upwards and I truly thank Simon & Schuster for this opportunity – and of course, Archie Roach AM and the late Ruby Hunter for their inspiring work on behalf of First Australians.