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

Mad Magpie – Gregg Dreise



Magabala Books

May 2016

ISBN 9781925360066

RRP $24.99

Once again Sunshine Coast author and illustrator Gregg Dreise has produced a sumptuous and vibrant take on traditional Aboriginal morality tales. Continuing with his series featuring birdlife Mad Magpie follows a theme of bullying and resilience. Drawing on inspiration from his Elders Gregg relates the story of a magpie called Guluu who is continually harassed and teased by butcher birds.

Of course Guluu’s reactive defence of anger just does not impact on his tormentors and the plaguing continues.  He consults his wise Elders seeking advice. Old Dinewah the emu, Bulul the mopoke owl and Gulayaali the pelican explain that being ‘tough and angry’ will not solve his problem. They advised him to stay calm like the water flowing in the river and to ignore the butcher birds.

“The butcher birds act tough because they’re in a group. They think it’s funny to see you get angry. Show them how a creature can be strong on the inside.”

As so many others have found in similar circumstances this is not easy and Guluu continues to be frustrated and feel his anger rise.

Until he decides to sing, just as he used to before he became so angry all the time. His loud birdsong completely drowns out the jeering of the bullies and they give up and fly away.  Standing proud and alone Guluu demonstrates that just one can overcome many.

In time even the butcher birds learn to sing and the community achieves a harmonious and bully-free life together.

Sing! Dance! Laugh! Love!


We can all learn from the lesson of Mad Magpie.

Highly recommended for children from around the age of four upwards. If you have not seen Gregg’s other books do yourself a favour and seek them out. I have previously reviewed both Silly Birds and Kookoo Kookaburra and also warmly recommend them to you.

With my Small’s proud Wiradjuri heritage these are all firm favourites in our home.

Click on the image to read an article from First Nations Telegraph.



Kookoo Kookaburra – Gregg Driese



Magabala Books

RRP $24.95

  • Published:May 2015
  • Pages:32
  • ISBN:9781921248900

Kindness is like a boomerang – if you throw it often, it comes back often

How timely that this beautiful new picture book from this talented Sunshine Coast author/illustrator should come my way just now when my family and I have been shown so much kindness from so many people.

Described as a morality tale, the theme of Gregg’s new book is simply kindness and the power it has to change our lives.

Long ago Kookoo Kookaburra lived happily in the bush and had many friends, who loved his amusing stories and and his gift of making them feel happy. But when Kookoo’s stories start focusing on teasing other animals and being unkind, the animals turn away from him no longer finding his tales funny.  Wise old Uncle Googaguga gave him some good advice likening kindness to a boomerang and suggesting that he be mindful of how he spoke of others. Kookoo resisted the Elder’s words until he came to realise that he was so lonely without the companionship of the other bush creatures.  Kookoo returned to telling stories that amused the other animals without making fun of them and once again his laughter rang out across the bush – and still does today.

Written in a way which reaches out to the very youngest of readers, this will be a worthy book for sharing with children from Prep up and a wonderful way of promoting the concept of kindness to others in our daily lives.

I was impressed with Gregg’s artwork in his first book Silly Birds (reviewed on Just So Stories last year) and am even more impressed with the vibrant illustrations in this new picture book. From the gorgeous endpapers to the beautiful full page paintings to the delightful accents on the facing text pages, this is a sumptuous visual feast throughout.

I love this book and highly recommend it for your own library shelves.