Bush and Beyond: Stories from Country

by Tjalaminu Mia,  Jessica Lister, Cheryl Kickett-Tucker and Jaylon Tucker

illustrated by Tracey Gibbs

reviewed by Danielle Freeland

This is the collaborative work of the four indigenous authors and forms part of the Waarda series of Indigenous stories. The four stories within the book give a rich account of family ties and life in the bush. The gentle plot lines feel like the written memories of parents passed down to children. Junior readers would not find it hard to read and those who love nature, animals and the outdoors will be particularly interested in the bush facts.

The first story, Bush Secrets, is written by Tjalaminu Mia and Jessica Lister. Debbie and her younger brother Billy eagerly await the arrival of their grandfather, Dada Keen, who always tells interesting stories about birds, plants and animals. He doesn’t disappoint. They make billy tea together and they chat about a nest Debbie has found. When Debbie shows him her secret tree which she’s named Gorgemus, Dada Keen says he has a secret to show her in the bush as well.

The second story, Yippee! Summer Holidays, is written by Tjalaminu Mia and Jessica Lister. It’s the start of summer holidays and Billy can’t stop shouting his favourite word, yippee. Their grandfather, Dada Keen, sends a letter to say he is coming to stay for two weeks. The children begin to race tires, a game they learned last time Dada Keen came. They wonder what else he will teach them this time he visits.

The third story, Barlay, is written by Cheryl Kickett-Tucker. Sarah, Jay and Rene live with their Nan. One night, Sarah and her brothers listen to one of Nan’s stories about the woordatj. She explains that the woordatj is all around us and is in contact with the trees, animals and birds. When the children go down to the Rocky Pool, they wonder if they might meet a woordatj.

The last story, Lucky Thamu, is written by Cheryl Kickett-Tucker and Jaylon Tucker. For the first time, ten-year-old Eli is going to visit Thamu, his grandfather, and Garbarli, his grandmother, all by himself. They live in the dusty red gold-mining town called Kalgoorlie, or Kaarlgula, by the local Aboriginal people. When Thamu shows Eli a gold nugget he found ten years ago, the two decide to go searching for another one together with Uncle Marshall.

The four short stores can be read independently. The characters are duplicated in Bush Secrets and Yippee! Summer Holidays and centre around the character of Dada Keen and his ‘bush education’ to the children, Debbie and Billy. There is a good balance between the setting and the characters, although conflict is not a main feature. The interactions between the children and their older relatives show a realistic portrayal of relationships between family members. Children will have the pleasure to learn some indigenous words and pastimes. The heartfelt black-and-white line drawings by illustrator Tracey Gibbs capture the warm relationships found in the story. Children will also enjoy the descriptions of animals and the bush.

Overall, the reading level of this book makes it easy to engage readers at this level. The four stories have short chapters that can be tackled in small chunks for beginnings. This book would suit as a bedtime story due to its quiet plot lines.  Other books in the series can be found on the Fremantle Press website.

Fremantle Press 2018, paperback $14.99, 135 pages ISBN 9781925591132

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