Tag Archives: First Australians

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

Echo in the Memory – Cameron Nunn

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Walker Books

June 2021

ISBN: 9781760653118
Imprint: Walker Books Australia

Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99

Beautifully timed for NAIDOC Week this new YA novel, which explores the convergence of two periods of Australian history with the common thread being the one family name, will both shock and illuminate many readers regarding some of the darkest moments in our history and how they continue to impact lives today.

Two boys separated by two hundred years are both exiled from all they know; both having faced traumatic circumstances. When Will is sent to his grandparents’ isolated farm in rural NSW it feels like the ends of the earth. As he struggles to deal with his grief over his mother’s death and the abandonment of his father he begins to have what appear to be flashes of memory of this unfamiliar place. However, the memories are not his he quickly realises but whose are they? He begins to realise that his surly and recalcitrant grandfather also has these memories, something which gradually brings the two closer together.

The memories relate to ‘the boy’ whose story is set in 1829 and is told in the first person. The harsh and unforgiving life for a child convict is revealed as each piece of history unfolds. In addition is the shocking revelations of the treatment of the local First Australian peoples, which is graphic and disturbing. In the present, Will’s story is told in the third person and his struggle to reconcile the hurt and grief of his family circumstances gradually begins to be resolved as he forges a new, although very different, kind of life on the farm.

Cameron Nunn has done much research into child convicts using primary sources which include original records and interview transcripts from the London courts, and this forms the basis of both his Ph D and his fiction. For students of history, or those seeking to better understand the often dangerous and certainly traumatic life for a child transported across the world, with little or no hope of ever returning to their family and original home, this is a must read.

It is written with older students in mind – suggested Year 9 upwards – and if you employ a ‘read around your topic’ approach to your history subjects, it will be very much worth adding to your collection. You will find the teaching notes hugely beneficial as an addition to your planning.

Highly recommended for your discerning readers from around 14 upwards.

Tell Me Why for Young Adults – Archie Roach

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  • Simon & Schuster Australia
  • (March 3, 2021)
  • ISBN13: 9781760858865

I can say unreservedly that this is one of the most powerful memoirs I have read in recent years and for young adults this is a book worth promoting heavily.

Archie’s life story is at times harrowing and confronting but also uplifting and inspirational. Taken away from his family at the age of 2, he was placed in foster care – initially, in a very distressing situation – but later in a family home with foster-parents who were both kind and loving. But an unexpected letter received in his teens, alerted Archie to his lost family and his search for his own people began. As it was, and has been, for many First Australians the impact of the Stolen Generation was devastating with long-term effects still being felt, Archie’s struggle to re-connect with his natural family and his culture was a roller-coaster of emotions, highlights and low periods.

Archie does not hold back on his battles with alcohol and the often tragic circumstances that punctuated his life as he endeavoured to find his place within his culture. His recollections of his life with his much-loved, and also highly acclaimed, wife Ruby Hunter are poignant and utterly heart-rending as both fought their own war against booze and depression.

His determination to rise above the often sordid events of his life was helped and accelerated by his music, something which had always sustained and nourished his spirit. As this confidence in his music grew so did his mission to awaken all Australians to the issues and tragedies of his people and culture. This career has seen Archie rise to the heights of respect not only within the industry but across the nation as more and more people develop an understanding of and empathy for our First Australians.

Archie’s ongoing goal to promote healing for his people and his personal resilience and inner strength is truly admirable and this history, both the personal and our nation’s past, is vital for all our young people at a time when society is faced with much unrest, uncertainty and division.

I cannot recommend this memoir highly enough – I was completely gripped by it (and read way past my bedtime as I was so engrossed with hit). I will certainly be promoting it actively to my young readers from Year 7 upwards.

Thank you Archie for sharing your life – the good, the bad and the ugly – with us all.

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.

Magabala Magic

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It’s always exciting to open a package from Magabala. I find such joy in the wonderful stories shared by our talented Indigenous creators. Two such stunning books are recent additions to the Magabala book list and both are set to become highly acclaimed in all quarters.

My Story/Ngaginybe Jarragbe – Shirley Purdie

October 2020
ISBN 9781925936131

RRP $24.99

Told in English and Gija, this is Shirley Purdie telling her own story of her childhood and her world-acclaimed art. Born at Mabel Downs, Shirley was raised absorbing the knowledge and culture of her elders and in turn, now shares this wealth through her artworks.

The first in the new Kimberley Art Centre Series which focuses on ‘developing the skills of Kimberley Aboriginal artists in children’s picture book storytelling and illustration’ this is going to be a major player in cross-cultural perspectives for your young readers.

Shirley’s anecdotes of growing up: learning about bush tucker, ceremony, learning to paint from her famous mother, Madigan Thomas and others and daily life on Country, will fascinate children and inspire them to pursue their own artistic endeavours.

The launch of the book will coincide with the re-hanging of the 2018 National Portrait Gallery exhibition So Fine: Contemporary women artists make Australian history along with some wonderful cultural activities engaging with My Story.

Truly a beautiful book this will be a valuable addition to your Indigenous collection and your integration of cross-cultural knowledge.

Highly recommended for readers from around six years upwards.

Found – Bruce Pascoe and Charmaine Ledden-Lewis

August 2020

ISBN 9781925936483

RRP $24.99

Author and illustrator have together created a simple but beautiful story about a little calf separated from its mother and family. Set in the bush, the small creature finds other animals but none are his family and his emotions run high. The strong feelings will easily resonate with young readers who will relate to the anxiety and the ultimate joy of reunion.

While Bruce is always so adept at creating heartfelt narratives, for me it is the superb illustrations that truly make this book stand out. These are without doubt the most adorable cows you have ever seen!

Another to add to your collection and one that will delight the littlest of readers from around four years upwards. Highly recommended for both the joy of the reading and the rich discussions that will arise.

Aussie Kids series – Books #5 & #6

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Penguin Australia

July 2020

Get your little newly independent readers excited when you add these two new volumes to the Aussie Kids books! This is just a truly charming series as children take a vicarious trip around our beautiful country, learning a little about kids from other spaces, cultures and backgrounds as well as information about the particular locale.

Meet Mia by the Jetty – Janeen Brian and Danny Snell

  • ISBN: 9781760893668
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $12.99

Visit South Australia in this episode and meet Mia, who fancies herself a tour guide especially when visitor Jim is coming to stay. Mia knows her bossy older sister, Alice, will want to take over but she is very determined to take the lead in showing Jim the local sights of Victor Harbour, like the jetty, the island and the beach.

A delightful ride on a horse-drawn tram (the only one in Australia we learn) is a real highlight but building sandcastles and exploring the beach, including fairy penguin burrows, as well as whale spotting are also huge moments in Mia’s deluxe tour.

By the end of the day even Alice has to admit that Mia has been a pretty successful tourist guide and this is only the first day of Jim’s visit!

Meet Sam at the Mangrove Creek – Paul Seden & Brenton McKenna

  • ISBN: 9781760894122
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $12.99

This one is particularly special for me as we visit the Top End and go fishing with Sam and his cuz Peter among the mangroves. Sam has a brand new throw net and can’t wait to try it out. He’s really hoping to catch a big juicy barra but really needs a bit of tuition in using his net properly. Luckily for the boys an old-timer quietly sitting nearby knows just the right technique for success and while the barra eludes the pair, they do manage a nice little haul of good sized whiting. Pretty chuffed with their catch they plan to take them home until they notice that the old man seems to be ‘camped’ in the park with just a bag of clothes and a blanket. The boys show their gratitude by gifting their fish to the old Uncle and go home happily planning their next great fishing adventure.

This one not only allows some virtual exploration of a landscape which will be very different to that most children know but also an insight into First Australian culture. As it’s written and illustrated by two Indigenous creators, one knows that the language, actions and attitudes of the characters is completely authentic. Definitely a winner!

I’d be surprised if primary libraries haven’t yet taken up this series but if you haven’t, I’d strongly urge you to do so. I know that particularly for those units of inquiry that focus on Australia – landscapes and diversity (around Year 2 for me) would benefit hugely from the inclusion of this series with the narratives, maps and additional facts.

There are two more volumes to come so pick up the first six now if you have not yet done so. Naturally they would also make a superb addition to your own home library for children from around 5 years upwards.

Don’t forget to check out the activity pack and there is also a Teach at Home lesson.

Living on Stolen Land – Ambelin Kwaymullina

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Magabala Books

July 2020

ISBN 9781925936247

RRP: $22.99

In any other year we would be in the midst of NAIDOC celebrations but this has been no ordinary year for any of us. And given the global swell of awareness around the circumstances, past and present, of people of colour this is a most timely and resonating book.

One of my mantra words at present is manifesto. For me it epitomises passion, commitment, truth and transparency and it is the best fit word in my opinion to describe this powerful sharing from Ambelin.

Written prose/free verse style each section unpacks the words used for generations to mask the truth of our dispossessed First Australian peoples and provides a blueprint for all who are prepared to stand as one and support new understandings and pathways.

Each section deals with another aspect of the painful history of our present day nation and the way forward through understanding and action.

There is no part of this place
that was not
is not
cared for
loved
by an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander nation
There are no trees
rivers
hills
stars
that were not
are not
someone’s kin

This is not a huge book but it is, without doubt, an important one to read, share, reflect upon and most importantly take to heart. For anyone seeking a clearer understanding of the need for ‘de-colonisation’ of Australia, empowering true cross-cultural perspectives and the achieving of a real and positive future for all Australians.

I cannot recommend it highly enough as an addition either to your own personal shelves or your library collection – I would suggest for secondary students as it does require a maturity of language and comprehension. If you seek to empower your young students in particular this is a ‘must have’.

Family – Aunty Fay Muir & Sue Lawson. Illustrated by Jasmine Seymour

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Magabala Books

July 2020

ISBN 9781925936285

RRP: $24.99

This is the second in the beautiful and enlightening Our Place series and continues the sharing of cultural identity and perspective in a way that is easily accessible by even the youngest of readers.

This relatively simple story accompanied by its stunning illustrations eloquently defines the meaning of family in the Indigenous Australian context and the ways in which family, in the whole sense regardless of size or shape, connects us all.

The importance of songs and stories from elders, learning to care for mob and country and the special connection to ancestors “to who we are, to who we will be” are all entwined with the concept that family is heart and home to everyone.

Once again the superlative illustrations add so much depth and richness to the prose and young readers will delight in recognising familiar scenes with which they can relate even though the setting is likely very much different to their own.

I cannot recommend this series highly enough to you for your collection whether it is for use in your cross-cultural programs or simply as a joyful addition to your personal collection.

Tell ’em – written by Katrina Germein & Rosemary Sullivan [with the Children of Manyallaluk School] Illustrated by Karen Briggs.

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Harper Collins Australia

May 2020

  • ISBN: 9781921504921
  • ISBN 10: 1921504927
  • Imprint: Working Title Press – AU
  • List Price: 24.99 AUD

What an absolute joy this book is! I’ve had some absolutely cracking books of late featuring Indigenous/First Australian themes but this one, which gives readers an insight into the everyday life of contemporary First Australian kids living in their remote community, is just superb.

Not only will it give children of either European or other cultural backgrounds quite an eye-opener but it will also be so much fun for jarjums in urban settings whose own lives will be very much different to these kids from Manyallaluk.

Follow this bunch of exuberant youngsters as they respond to the question of ‘What else?’ (to tell kids in other places) with a real exploration of their community and country.

Tell ’em how us kids like to play.
We got bikes and give each other rides.
Tell ’em about the dancing and singing,
And all the stories the old people know.

Every page is alive with colour and joy as we join the Roper River kids at their school with the pond and the banana trees, as they do handstands and disco dancing, practise for ceremony , hunt for bush turkey, goanna and kangaroo, fish and sleep in the bush making campfires for damper and tea. Just truly smashing – I love it!

Highly recommended for your kiddos of every persuasion from around four years upwards!

Top End Girl – Miranda Tapsell

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Hachette Australia

APR 28, 2020 | 9780733642432 | RRP $32.99

A deadly memoir about being bold, black and brave in work, life and love

As Reconciliation Week closes for another year how timely is it that I can share this impressive and inspirational memoir from the pint-sized dynamo Miranda Tapsell.

Many will know her from The Sapphires and more still from the recent movie which she co-wrote and starred in, Top End Wedding.

This memoir recounts her growing up in the Territory mostly focusing on Darwin, her determination to make it as a creative in such a tough industry and her passionate advocacy for her people, culture and country. Readers will follow Miranda’s journey from stage-struck Larrakia Tiwi kid to lauded actress and writer with delight while, at the same time, applauding her resilience, tenacity and self-belief. What a fabulous example to other young Indigenous kids aspiring to follow their own dreams!

It’s a testament to the readability of this book that I read it over just three (week) nights. Miranda infuses her writing with the same vivacity and joy she demonstrates on-screen along with much humour and a very down-to-earth attitude. She doesn’t hold back on her views about the ongoing struggle of our First Australian peoples and I would encourage anyone who wants to know more about both the past and the current state of play in this regard to pick this up and read it, reflect and, hopefully, act.

Sadly it is not just in our country that the racial issue continues to raise its ugly head as this week’s news unfortunately shows. It would seem that though the years roll on there are still so many who choose to remain ignorant and inhuman simply from their innate prejudices.

Miranda has added another string to her creative bow with this debut book. I for one hope that she will continue to produce more writing particularly with reference to opening the minds and hearts of fellow Australians.

I hardly need to say I recommend this highly for any reader from teen upwards – an important and deadly addition to any reading list.