Self-isolated with small children and trying not to have the family lose their collective minds? Can’t go out on Country because of the COVID-19 community visit ban? Why not have Country come to you?
Here at NIT we’ve found a couple of picture books that are sure to entertain the kids and remind you that Country is only as far away as your imagination.
Mum’s Elephant is a beautifully told story about something we can all relate to, Mum’s special things. Author Maureen Jipiyilya Nampijina O’Keefe is able to allude to the very special object that ‘Mum’ adored, and the children coveted.
The story is set in the outstation of Jarra Jarra in the Northern Territory and is told from the perspective of one of the children; a child that has grown up and is reflecting on the memories of their mother and her treasured teapot.
The story demonstrates that having a mass of material objects will not provide for a happy life – sometimes less is more.
Cleverly, O’Keefe reminds readers how items should be treated when they are important, and that sometimes all Mums need is a good cup of tea to get them through.
“Don’t pull ‘im by the nose so roughly” are words that will inevitably be much like the own we speak to our children about our own special objects.
O’Keefe is a Kaytetye-Wilpiri woman whose stories and poems are in many publications. However, this is her first storybook, and she has paired well with the book’s illustrator, Christina Booth.
Booth cleverly hides the teapot throughout the pages, before revealing it in all its glory in the last part of the book.
The bright orange that features throughout the book will instantly send anyone with memory of that coloured sand, straight back to where they have seen it.
A brown and white dog also features heavily on the pages. Booth places the pooch exactly where you would expect to see it and tricks young readers of the book into believing that it may be Fido who is the elusive ‘elephant’.
The story helps to teach kids that special things should be cared for, especially if they give joy to others, a timely reminder while children are at home for this period.
Brother Moon is a brilliant children’s book written by Maree McCarthy Yoelu that demonstrates our connection to the earth. Nothing like a story about something out of this world to get your mind off a global pandemic.
The book is a picturesque story told from a great grandfather to his great grandson (or hippy boy as he is commonly referred to), set on Wadjigany Country.
Brother Moon explores the mysterious story of the ‘Brother’ and how he guides Great Grandpa Liman through Country at night.
The story explores the connection that all of us have with the moon and Country. Providing children with the understanding of the natural world is more important than ever in a world often filled with screens and smaller backyards.
The story also provides a solution to all of those children who suffer from a fear of the dark, explaining that the moon provides the light to ward away the apprehension of the night.
“My brother is wise and never grows old. As the sun disappears beyond the horizon my brother stops by. He knows that I am wary of the darkness.”
The story is based around Yoelu’s own grandfather who was a respected Wadjigany man and a leader in his community.
Providing the soft and calming illustrations of the book is Samanthy Fry. The illustrator is descended from the Dagiman people and her background of living in the NT is clear in the images she creates.
The dark colours provide for a calming influence on children. If you watch the children closely as you read, you can see them quiet down as the story goes on only to be startled by the picture of the crocodile which is happily pointed out. A thrilling conversation about what the crocodile will do next will no doubt ensue.
The story is a great conversation starter about feelings that children have around connection to their world and should be put on everyone’s ‘to read’ list to the little children getting under your feet.
Both books can be found at all good bookshops or online (completely COVID-19 safe) at www.magabala.com.
By Caris Duncan