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Saturday 19 February 2022

Discover engaging stories on the Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Resource database

Maureen Mann has been inspired by the diverse voices represented on the NCACL Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Resource database and follows up last week’s post by Dr Belle Alderman, to share some of her thoughts on a selection of titles located on the database.

I have been dipping in to the Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander Resource. Explore it here NCACL’s database.  (See last week’s blog from Dr Belle Alderman- A gateway to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s literature) I’ve had some fun exploring the resource and then finding items to read. There were a few which I had already reported on in my blog last year while travelling in the Northern Territory but there were many more new-to-me titles. And there are many more which I haven’t had a chance of finding and reading – yet! 

The database is easy to use. Searches are easy. Look back at Dr Alderman’s listing last week for the details. Click on the cover after your search and a summary appears, with audience range listed. Then there’s more detail in subjects, annotation and teaching notes. 

Here are some of my choices, focussing more on books for early childhood and primary readers but something for secondary readers as well.

Aunty’s Wedding by Miranda Tapsell, Joshua Tyler & Samantha Fry. Allen & Unwin, 2020.

Everyone’s getting ready for the wedding. Maningawu describes what everyone will wear, and why there is a wedding. It’s a good introduction to Tiwi language with simple words woven into the narrative. Lovely illustrations, using bold colours. Great use of ‘white space’.

Azaria: A true story by Maree Coote. Walker Books, 2020.

This is a stunning description of the disappearance of baby Azaria Chamberlain at Uluru in 1980, the resultant police and justice investigation and how ignorance and the perils of mob thinking influenced the carriage of justice. The book tells all sides of the story: the family, the police, the indigenous trackers; its brilliant illustrations introduce many aspects of culture from across the world.

Backyard Birds by Helen Milroy. Fremantle Press, 2020.

Helen Milroy introduces the reader to many familiar birds. Each bird is shown on one page with an action statement opposite, often with rhyme or alliteration. Bright colours and swirling images attract the reader. 

Bindi by Kirli Saunders & Deb Leffler. Magabala Books, 2020.

This verse novel is one year in the life of indigenous girl Bindi Hoskins, her friends and family as they face the challenges of drought, fire and the complex world. The use of Gundungurra language enriches the reading experience and the pencil drawings enhance the reader’s understanding of Bindi’s world. 

Brother Moon by Maree McCarthy Yoelu & Samantha Fry. Magabala Books, 2020.

Told while sitting in a house beside the sea, this is great-grandpa Liman’s story about his brother, who slowly unfolds as the reader learns more details: wise, never growing old, brightest at night, changing shape, a helper during the hunt and a protector from unwelcome visitors. There’s a great double-page spread showing the moon’s phases and a joyful realisation by Hippy. Lovely evocative illustrations are done in pencil on dark paper. Both creators of this book are from the Northern Territory. Yoelu is a Wadjigany woman and Samantha Fry is descended from the Dagiman people.

Dry to Dry by Pamela Freeman & Liz Anelli. Walker Books, 2020.

Winner of the Eve Pownall Award in 2021. This is a wonderful depiction of the changing seasons in Kakadu in northern Australia. The reader sees the change from dry season through all the stages of the wet and back to the dry season. Along the way the myriad of animals, insects and birds are introduced to the reader. There’s a short summary of the six seasons recognised by indigenous inhabitants. 

Landing with Wings by Trace Balla. Allen & Unwin, 2020.

This is a complex and multi-levelled long picture book, or is it a graphic novel? Miri Blossom is forced to leave her beloved tea tree to move to the Goldfields, and doesn’t want to go. Miri, or Bloss, and her mum travel the train to get there, arriving in the dark. And then we, the reader, see her adjust to her new life, exploring, meeting new neighbours, and making a great adjustment – better than her mum, at times, who wants to move again. Bloss documents the changing seasons and landscape in her sketchbook, and we slowly see Mum adjusting and making friends. Details of cultural life in Dja Dja Wurrung country are incorporated seamlessly, with Balla guided by local elders. Created in Balla’s signature graphic novel format, full of detail and memorable characters.

Tell ‘em by Katrina Germein and Rosemary Sullivan and the children of Manyallaluk School. Harper Collins, 2020.

This exuberant celebration of all the things which the children of the Roper River region of the Northern Territory enjoy doing. As an adult, the reader will recognise the shouts from the children wanting to include their favourite activities, but younger readers will recognise many things. They will also learn about some Indigenous ceremonies, stories and how life in this remote area differs from their own.

Putting Australia on the Map by Carole Wilkinson. Simon & Schuster, 2020.

Wilkinson documents the slow discovery by European explorers of the existence of Australia, while also acknowledging that First Nations people had lived here for over 50,000. She comments on van Diemen’s timidity because he had been warned to expect ‘fierce savages’ and Dampier’s surprise that the Indigenous people didn’t envy the British way of life or admire their possessions. Throughout the book there are reproductions of contemporary maps which slowly expose the outline of what we now know as Australia. A highly readable non-fiction book which adults and younger readers will enjoy.

The Boy from the Mish by Gary Londesborough. Allen & Unwin, 2021.

This debut novel is the story of Jackson from the NSW South Coast after his Aunty Pam and his cousins on their annual visit from Sydney arrive with an extra person, Tomas. The growing attraction between Jackson and Tomas is the basis of the story. But there is more than their emerging relationship, including the definition of masculinity, identity, culture and the role of art in expression and healing. 

Maureen Mann
Retired teacher librarian and avid reader

Editor's note Each image is linked to its record on the database where you will discover intended audience, curriculum links, related subjects, an annotation and a link teacher resources if available.

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