cover image SUN MOTHER WAKES THE WORLD: An Australian Creation Story

SUN MOTHER WAKES THE WORLD: An Australian Creation Story

Diane Wolkstein, , illus. by Bronwyn Bancroft. . HarperCollins, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-688-13915-5

"Darkness. Silence. No fish swam. No animal stirred. The wind did not whisper. The earth was asleep." In the beginning of this folkloric creation tale, a "soft voice" tells Sun Mother to revive the slumbering earth and give life to the barrenness below. She sends her golden rays into dark caves and awakes the sleeping animals, who emerge into a bright new world. Wolkstein (The Magic Orange Tree ) here adapts a legend of the indigenous Australian people, who believe "their ancestors created the world... and [it's] still being created" in a process called "The Dreamtime," according to the author's introductory note. Bancroft (Big Rain Coming ), an indigenous Australian artist, underscores this dreamlike quality with her otherworldly illustrations. The compositions teem with amorphous creatures—Sun Mother, a yellow shape-shifter, takes on tree-like roots, her arms literally make a circle at other points); dots, lines and curlicues form patterns and swirl across the pages in a kaleidoscope of saturated hues. Yet the story does not quite break out of the stiff, longwinded voice of the set-up pages, and the searching, wonder-filled sense of Dreamtime that Wolkstein hints at in her foreword never makes its way into the storytelling. Unfortunately, youngest readers may come away from the story more confused than enlightened. But older children interested in mythology and lured by the illustrations may well be mesmerized. Ages 4-7. (Apr.)