Birrarung Wilam: A Story from Aboriginal Australia

Aunty Joy Murphy and Andrew Kelly, illus. by Lisa Kennedy. Candlewick, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0942-6
Woiwurrung is a language spoken by the Wurundjeri people of Australia’s Yarra River valley, around present-day Melbourne. Wurundjeri elder Murphy and Yarra riverkeeper Kelly offer readers a door into the Woiwurrung language, which, the back matter tells readers, “does not translate directly into English.” The authors work mostly with nouns, and readers work out meanings using context, the illustrations, and the glossary: “Where Birrarung begins to run through farmland,/ marram, resting on soft forepaws,/ neatly clips buath.” (Birrarung is the Yarra River; Marram is a gray kangaroo; buath is grass.) In Tasmanian Trawlwoolway Kennedy’s handsome acrylic paintings, the river flows slowly, and the marsupials and birds that live beside it are shown feeding and burrowing, swimming and flying. The animals are painted naturalistically, framed by tapestries of texture and pattern that contain aboriginal elements. As the river approaches the city, buildings appear, but always in the background. It’s a lovely, immersive introduction to a language, and a closely observed view of the Australian natural world. Ages 6–9. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 06/25/2020
Release date: 08/04/2020
Genre: Children's
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