Silly Birds – written and illustrated by Gregg Dreise


Magabala Books

Author:  Gregg Dreise

Published: Jun 2014

Pages: 32

ISBN: 9781922142993

Ages: Lower primary

RRP : $24.95

silly birds

Way back before Once-upon-a-time time, there was the Dreamtime, and during this period there was Maliyan.

So starts this gorgeous morality tale from Gregg Driess, a Kamilaroi man, born and raised in St George, Queensland.  Gregg was raised in a family that loved sport, music and poetry and he is currently a teacher on the beautiful Sunshine Coast.

Inspired by a story from his uncle about a cockatoo taught to speak both English and Italian, and reflecting on the oft repeated saying of his Elders that its ‘hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys’, Gregg has presented an amusing and instructive tale.

Maliyan was a young eagle with a loving family – parents who were proud of him and looked after him well. Through their teaching he learned to listen carefully and how to see things a long away. They didn’t want him to be a wombah thigaraa [silly birds in the Gamilaraay language of the Kamilaroi people].

As Maliyan grew older he was well respected – until he met Wagun. Wagun was a real wombah thigaraa, always talking, usually about himself, always running around without looking carefully and he never listened.  He was a real bragger. While the Elders frowned upon Wagun, Maliyan thought he seemed fun. They began to sing together, and making up silly dances to go with their silly songs. Things got worse as other young birds joined Wagun and Maliyan and calamities followed – eating too much food, so that it became scarcer and scarcer, throwing their rubbish into the waterholes and polluting the drinking water and just generally being silly.

Like all parents, Maliyan’s mother and father were worried about their son running around with the wrong crowd and when he realised this he became sad. He went to the Elders to ask the Wise Ones their advice. They told him ‘It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys’ and he began to understand. Remembering his own power to see and hear things, and to look and listen, he passed on this wisdom to younger birds who responded to his words. Once again Maliyan was a proud eagle and before long the birds were all working together to fix the problems and build for the future. All except Wagun, that is.  Because he took no notice, Wagun lost his ability to fly, was selfish and kept trying to have fun instead of helping. He grew lonely with no friends and all he could do was scratch around on the ground looking for seeds and fallen berries.

“Now the eagles remind their children about the story of Maliyan.

 Children are reminded to always look and listen before speaking.

To always respect Elders’ knowledge and experience.

 To only take what you need and never be too greedy.

And to always choose your friends wisely, because it is hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys.”

Wonderful book with absolutely sumptuous illustrations in a modern Indigenous style – and stylish endpapers!

Highly recommended and perfect for cross-cultural studies in the AC and many discourses around the themes.


eagle Click on the image for teaching notes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s