Our Dreaming by Kirli Saunders & Dub Leffler (A Scholastic Press book from Scholastic Australia)
Book Review by Joy in Books at PaperbarkWords blog
The inclusively titled picture book, Our Dreaming, is by the dream team of Gunai Woman Kirli Saunders and descendant from the Bigambul people of South-West Queensland, Dub Leffler. Their previous collaboration is the verse novel, Bindi.
Our Dreaming is edited and published by Rebecca Young at Scholastic. Rebecca is the author of the sublime Teacup (illustrated by Matt Ottley). Kirli has also worked with Matt Ottley, writing the text of The Incredible Freedom Machines.
A mother and child echidna guide us through Our Dreaming to explore what Dreaming is, what it means for Country and Community and how to respect living creatures.
As I read the book, I wondered about its intended readership. It is simple yet profound. Young children will follow the echidnas in wonder; older readers will delve into (and possibly grapple with) the meanings and connotations.
What is the Dreaming?
The mother echidna takes the role of parent, teacher, sage or Elder … herself and says, ‘Goodjagah, little one, walk with me …’ She tells her child ‘our Dreaming as the Elders told it to me.’
Each nation has their own Dreaming. ‘We keep our Dreaming alive when we dhuulu [speak] in Mother tongue, and dance, strong like our Old People … Our Dreaming lives in our stories, songs and art. It is our identity, purpose and responsibility to our community.’
The Dreaming in this book explains creation, spirit guidance and belonging. The Dreaming continues after creation. It cannot be labelled as a philosophy, a religion, a mindset or a manifesto. It could perhaps be described as a prevailing, re-nurturing, celebratory (although reverent) way of life.
Gunyunggalung [The Dreaming] is a source of nourishment. ‘Gunyunggalung is our way of being, belonging and sustaining land, culture and love. Our Dreaming is our path, with footstones laid down by those who came before. We must make sure we always leave new ones for goodjagah to follow.’
The mother echidna takes the narratorial role. She carefully imparts important truths about the Dreaming. Author, Kirli Saunders, skilfully places Gundungurra words throughout the narrative.
I believe this is Dub Leffler’s best illustrative work since his seminal Once There Was a Boy. He uses watercolour paint and pencil, coffee and salt for his images! His echidnas are endearing, and are shown through texture, close-ups and cropping. They have an undeniable cuteness factor. They, and the illustrations as a whole, are drawn with knowledge and affection, and have an allusive, even magical tone.
Our Dreaming demonstrates how talent, care and eye for detail can elevate the beauty and value of a publication. Encircled by playful endpapers, this is a seamless, reflective work.
Bindi Interview with Dub Leffler at PaperbarkWords
Guwayu Interview with Kirli Saunders at PaperbarkWords