Drawing again from aboriginal Australia's rich folkloric heritage, Wrightson weaves a spellbinding tale about Balyet, abandoned—as punishment for a sin—to live forever alone. Jo, a 14-year-old white girl, has come with her elderly aboriginal friend, Mrs. Willet, to the hills to camp while Mrs. Willet—a powerful "Clever Woman"—tends her people's sacred sites. Jo has an ulterior motive: seeing her friend Terry, who is nearby with his brother, Lance. She chafes under Mrs. Willet's admonitions about danger in the ancient hills until Balyet appears—a voice, a wisp of fog, a shadow, a sorrow—and abducts little Kevin, whom Jo has promised to tend but forgets when Lance lures her off on his motorbike. After Kevin's narrow escape, Mrs. Willett tells Jo that Balyet's sin was loving blood brothers, who killed each another as a result; in retribution, her people left her. Though time has diminished her to a shadow, she is denied death's release. Empathizing with Balyet's grief, drawn to her as a kindred being, feeling that her punishment is cruel and unfair, Jo is almost lured to her own death before Mrs. Willet is able to reason with the ancient spirits and save both willful girls. Sorrowful, elusive Balyet is a compelling creation; the parallel with modern Jo adds depth to a story that poetically explores the characteristic Wrightson theme of interdependence and continuity among all creatures. This may be Wrightson's best yet.

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0091828171

Page Count: 102

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves


A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children.


On hot summer nights, Amani’s parents permit her to go outside and play in the apartment courtyard, where the breeze is cool and her friends are waiting.

The children jump rope to the sounds of music as it floats through a neighbor’s window, gaze at stars in the night sky, and play hide-and-seek in the moonlight. It is in the moonlight that Amani and her friends are themselves found by the moon, and it illumines the many shades of their skin, which vary from light tan to deep brown. In a world where darkness often evokes ideas of evil or fear, this book is a celebration of things that are dark and beautiful—like a child’s dark skin and the night in which she plays. The lines “Show everyone else how to embrace the night like you. Teach them how to be a night-owning girl like you” are as much an appeal for her to love and appreciate her dark skin as they are the exhortation for Amani to enjoy the night. There is a sense of security that flows throughout this book. The courtyard is safe and homelike. The moon, like an additional parent, seems to be watching the children from the sky. The charming full-bleed illustrations, done in washes of mostly deep blues and greens, make this a wonderful bedtime story.

Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55271-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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