Heroes, Rebels and Innovators: Inspiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People from History by Karen Wyld, illustrated by Jaelyn Biumaiwai
Inside the CBCA Shortlist
Book review and ideas on how to use Heroes, Rebels and Innovators by Joy in Books at PaperbarkWords blog
Heroes, Rebels and Innovators (Lothian Children’s Books) is shortlisted in the very strong Eve Pownall category for information books in the 2022 CBCA awards. Author Karen Wyld is of Martu descent and illustrator Jaelyn Biumaiwai is of Mununjali and Fijian descent.
This narrative non-fiction in picture book form looks at seven inspiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have left their mark on history.
It is a fascinating idea to classify historical figures as heroes, rebels and innovators.
The format is ideal for young readers and schools because each historical figure is given their own section of several pages – like a short story. Each person is introduced through a narrative moment or episode, or overview of their life. This is followed by factual text.
The writing is clear and evocative and the illustrations are bright and bold, anchored in a colour palette of yellow, orange, red and brown, with white highlights.
As I (and no doubt many others) predicted when it was published, because of its concept and how it is told, Heroes, Rebels and Innovators has become an award recipient.
One hero from the book is Torres Strait Islander, Mohara Wacando-Lifu who was the first Indigenous woman to be awarded the Royal Humane Society’s Gold Medal for bravery.
One rebel is resistance fighter Tarenorerer.
One innovator is author, preacher and inventor David Unaipon, who is on the $50 note and has a literary award named after him.
At the close of the book’s Introduction, the question is posed, “What dream will you turn into reality?” No doubt Karen Wyld and Jaelyn Biumaiwai have realised part of their own life’s dream by sharing these tales and creating this stunning book. We all need to read about the heroic, rebellious, innovative Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people they profile in this important book.
Using the book with children:
Map On a map of Australia, making sure to use one that includes the Torres Strait Islands, pinpoint where the seven people featured in Heroes, Rebels and Innovators were based or use dotted lines to show where they travelled. Use the book where possible to find this information, before using other resources if necessary. Write the place and person’s name on the map and label them as hero, rebel or innovator. Children could also draw a fingernail sketch of the person with something that represents them beside their name. Bungaree, for example, has several things that could represent his life, including the fishing spear and tricorn hat.
Then, discuss who fits into more than one of the categories of hero, rebel and innovator and why?
Also talk about gender and other representation and anything else of interest.
Other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heroes, rebels and innovators Of course there are many other historical and contemporary figures who should be honoured. Imagine there will be a sequel to the book. In groups, select a figure to write about in the context of hero, rebel or innovator. Illustrate in Jaelyn Biumaiwai’s style. (She uses Adobe Illustrator, so it may be possible to use that as well.)
Honouring, heartbreaking, humour The book is honouring of the people it discusses but is also sobering and, in fact heartbreaking at times, because of how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people have been treated and how they have not been respected in the past or present. However, some lightness and humour are incorporated. Children find examples.
David Unaipon also features in another 2022 CBCA Eve Pownall shortlisted book, The First Scientists. Compare and contrast the content about him and how he is portrayed in both books.
Endpapers The endpapers are coloured red. What might the speckled pattern be?
Children replicate the colour (perhaps as a wash) and speckles of the endpapers on paper and add their own artwork. Using the colour palette of the book, they represent one of the heroes, rebels or innovators.