The Girl from Sandy Desert – Jukuna Mona Chuguna and Pat Lowe illustrated by Mervyn Street

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Magabala Books

  • Published:Feb 2015
  • Pages:112
  • ISBN:9781922142054
  • Ages:Upper primary
  • Format:Paperback
  • RRP $16.99

This is a quite different book very suitable for Upper Primary/Middle School with firsthand accounts of traditional indigenous desert life told through the eyes of a young Walmajarri girl, Mana.

Pat Lowe is an Englishwoman who moved to Broome in 1979, fulfilling a lifelong dream to live in Western Australia.  In the 80s she went to stay in a desert camp for a period of time and while there came to know Jukuna and her family. Later when both Jukuna and Pat were living in Broome, they began to record Jukuna’s stories, Pat having realised what a rich source of valuable cultural information these were.

A decision was made to couch the stories in a semi-biographical book renaming characters as many of them were no longer living and it would have been inappropriate to name them. Unfortunately Jukuna died in 2011 but her vibrant story telling now lives on via this wonderful book.

Interspersed with the stories are small chunks of cultural information which give background to aspects of particular stories e.g. Mana’s story about dogs is followed up by an information panel about the importance of dogs to the desert people.  The beautiful charcoal style black-and-white illustrations are a perfect accompaniment.

This is an interesting read on any level and will be particularly useful in teaching situations as there is no need to read the entirety but it can be dipped into at need or to suit aspects of the classroom work.  Since at present the cross-curriculum priorities of exploring ATSI culture and history remain in place, works such as this will prove valuable resources.

Through Mana’s stories we can all glimpse the life of a desert child before European settlement changed the Walmajarri people’s lives forever.

Highly recommended for your library shelves – year 5 and upwards to around Year 7/8.

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