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BIRRARUNG WILAM by Aunty Joy Murphy Kirkus Star


A Story From Aboriginal Australia

by Aunty Joy Murphy & Andrew Kelly ; illustrated by Lisa Kennedy

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-5362-0942-6
Publisher: Candlewick

A gentle, descriptive portrait of a lush and well-loved land.

Created by Joy Murphy Wandin Ao, Senior Aboriginal Elder of the Wurundjeri people of the Melbourne area, in collaboration with Kelly and Kennedy, also of the area, this #ownvoices picture book is one of a kind. Beginning with carefully painted endpapers that feature patterned stones and platypuses at the front and fish in waves at the back, the story follows the Birrarung (Yarra River) as it weaves its way from creeks to rivers, verdant bush undergrowth to valley pines beneath a pale blue sky, farmland to city. Animals identified with their Woiwurrung names are described in their various habitats: warin (wombat), marram (gray kangaroo), wallert (possum), waa (raven), and many others. Each layered spread features life of all forms—human, flora, and fauna—portrayed in a dynamic, vivid style. Intricate dot- and line-based art punctuates the lush illustrations drenched in vibrant greens, earthy browns, and watery blues, immersing readers in Aboriginal art. Extensive backmatter features a spread-by-spread glossary of Woiwurrung words used in the book accompanied by a reminder that “The Woiwurrung language does not translate directly into English.” This text perfectly captures the intersection of culture and science, making this an excellent text for an elementary-level unit on animal habitats, artistic portrayals, and cultural depictions of ecology.

Wilam, home, takes many forms for a plethora of animals in this striking Aboriginal story.

(glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)