Black Cockatoo by Carl Merrison & Hakea Hustler

Inside the CBCA Shortlist

Black Cockatoo (Magabala Books) is written by Jaru & Kija man Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler and is illustrated by Dub Leffler, who also illustrated Sorry Day, which is shortlisted in the CBCA Eve Pownall category.

It is a memorable story about an Aboriginal family living in the Kimberley. Thirteen-year-old Mia (“Mia, her skin unblemished, radiated optimism and hope”) loves her Country but sometimes wants more. Her grandmother tells her that she lives in both worlds, “You will be strong both ways.”

Although a spirited character she must show respect to her older brother. However, fifteen-year-old Jy’s anger ripples “under his scarred skin”. He disrespects the family’s past and is killing birds.

Education is valued by the family and language, particularly of bird names, is included.  This is an insightful, yet confronting, literary work.

Hakea Hustler’s website is  http://hakeahustler.com.au/about/

Using the book with students:

Story Collage To further enter Mia’s world in Black Cockatoo, students make story collages in pairs or small groups. They explore the colours, shapes and textures of the setting, landscape, characters and birds and assemble collages using found and made materials. These could include red dust (possibly made from chalk), pages 20,30, bindi-eyes and rocks, page 21, boomerang, page 33, shade trees, spearhead, page 48 and dropped or artificial feathers. The description when Mia dreams she is flying, pages 55-6, could be helpful. Students should devise colour schemes based on the mood and atmosphere generated by the story, as well as the setting. Black should feature.

The Story Collages could be created on poster or pin boards, as posters or on Instagram. Words and phrases could also be cut out from other sources and students could add their own words during the process.

Story Collages are useful when students are writing their own stories to build atmosphere and develop characters.

Prediction In line with what is known about Mia from the novella, what might she do next to demonstrate her freedom.

Read ‘Language’ is used in Black Cockatoo, with a glossary at the end. Language also features in Our Birds, shortlisted in the CBCA Eve Pownall category, by fifteen-year-old Yolŋu author Siena Stubbs, and the black cockatoo features in this book as well. Read Bruce Pascoe’s writing for young people, e.g. Young Dark Emu: A Truer History, Fog a Dox, Mrs Whitlam and Sea Horse (all Magabala Books).

5 thoughts on “Black Cockatoo by Carl Merrison & Hakea Hustler

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s