Books for Young Children from Magabala

Counting our Country by Jill Daniels

Counting our Country is a counting book written in both English and the Aboriginal Ritharrŋu language, which is part of the Yolŋu language family from South-East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

It is formatted as a board book for very young children and is illustrated in bold, bright block colours. The numbers are shown as words written in contrasting white font, rather than as numerals.

Each double-page features a new animal, beginning with “one goanna” on the verso (left-hand) page and “bidjay”, goanna in language on the recto (right-hand) page. This is followed in the same format with “two magpie geese” – “gurrumattji” and “three barramundi” – “mirritji”, up to “ten kangaroos” – “djatja”.

There is a pronunciation guide to the Ritharrŋu animal names at the end of this simple, beautifully designed book.

The Butterfly Garden written by Michael Torres, illustrated by Fern Matthews.

Another board book recently published by Magabala Books is The Butterfly Garden. Author Jabirr Jabirr man, Michael Torres from the Broome region shows the life cycle of the butterfly but incorporates a lovely introduction, “A rainbow of butterflies fluttered through the garden – past a fat caterpillar and a hungry kookaburra.”

The kookaburra becomes the unifying character of the story, because it wants to eat the caterpillar and can’t believe it is the butterfly’s brother because they look nothing alike. The kookaburra thinks the cocoon is a trick and watches it closely. When a butterfly emerges, “The kookaburra could not believe his eyes. He laughed so much he nearly fell off his branch.” And so, this also becomes a creation tale of why the kookaburra laughs.

Illustrator Fern Martins, descendant of the Ngarabul people of northern NSW and the Waki Waki people of southern coastal Queensland, uses a simple, colourful style. A lovely swirling texture decorates the illustrations of the butterfly wings and cocoon.

Going to the Footy by Debbie Coombes

It is exciting to see books from the Tiwi Islands, and Debbie Coombes has used the picture book form to showcase all the ways the islanders travel to their beloved Aussie Rules (Yiloga) games.

The written text is very simple and repetitive and so is ideal for children learning to read, “On a plane.” “On a barge.” “In a tinny.” And so on. Each phrase is shown in bold clear font on one page facing a large illustration in acrylics of the named vehicle.

Magabala Books continues to nurture and promote wonderful books from Indigenous authors and illustrators.

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