Murphy, Aunty Joy , Kelly, Andrew

Birrarung Wilam: A Story from Aboriginal Australia

(2) K-3 Illustrated by Lisa Kennedy. "Me no leave it, / Yarra, my country. / There's no mountains / for me on the Murray." This 1874 quote from William Barak, Wurundjeri Ngurungaeta (who was a leader of the Aboriginal Australian nation of the Woiwurrung language group), opens this dynamic celebration of Australia's Yarra River Valley. From sunup to sundown--the creatures, plants, and people that call the setting wilam (or home) are illuminated as the river twists and turns through and around them, offering shelter, safety, solace, and more. Acrylic illustrations, vibrant in hue with an iridescent quality, include embellishments such as zigzags, curves, and traditional dot painting, which add visual texture. The sensory-rich text describes small moments in detail, such as an eagle soaring overhead, a possum in a nest, or rain dripping onto leaves and into the earth: "Deep in the yerin, wallert comes home to sleep in a bark-lined nest inside a hollow tree. Parnmin falls on djerang, flows down wirrip, and soaks into yeameneen beek." The writing fluidly shifts between English and Woiwurrung, in the same font and typeface, centering the bilingual experience of this Aboriginal community. Though (per an author's note) the Woiwurrung language does not translate directly to English, back matter includes a glossary as well as biographies of the creators, each with a personal connection to the story. (Co-author Murphy is a senior Aboriginal elder of the Wurundjeri people of Melbourne and the surrounding area.) A distinct and introspective reflection on time, place, creatures, and people.


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