Review Blog

May 16 2011

Playground complied by Nadia Wheatley

cover image

Illustration and design by Ken Searle. Allen and Unwin, 2011. ISBN 978 1 76237 097 2.
(Ages 8+) Recommended. Picture book.  Subtitled, Listening to stories from country and from inside the heart, this large picture book of 85 pages plus about 10 pages of conclusion, acknowledgments, bibliography, references to contributors and index, make this an exceptional book to use in the classroom and library when looking at Aboriginal culture. Each double page is an amalgam of stories from different groups in different areas of Australia, with superb illustrations and photographs, collected under headings which are of huge benefit to the student. With headings such as First lessons, Getting bush tucker, Going fishing, Learning through song and ceremony and Growing up, the range of topics covered will cover all eventualities in the classroom. Students that want to know how information is passed on in a community without written language, will be satisfied with several chapters, particularly the one entitled, Learning through stories and pictures, which, after an introduction, then allows the people to tell their stories. So we have Jami Lester, growing up in the Yankunyjatra lands in western South Australia, talking of his experiences, followed by Paddy Japaljarri Stewart from the Walpiri lands in Central Australia, talking of the law in his community and Olive Jackson telling us of law in her community. In this way the book serves to show the differences between Aboriginal groups as well as their similarities. On the three double pages of Getting bush tucker, an introduction again gives the reader a context, then launching into stories from different people. Darby Ross, a Walpirir man, describes collecting and sharing food as a child, while Hazel Brown and her brother talk of collecting food in south west Western Australia, and Troy and Geoffrey tell of collecting emu eggs near Walgett in New South Wales. In this way a collection of stories details the experience on the land of these individuals, building up a picture of Aboriginal life.
Sharing their wisdom, both within their communities and with the wider world, ensures that their culture lives on, and this book reveals much to the student and interested reader, eager to learn of the Aboriginal way of life, where the land is both their school and their playground. A most useful resource which supports many other wonderful books, The Papunya book (Nadia Wheatley), Maralinga (Christobel Mattingley) and Our world (One Arm Point Remote School)
Fran Knight

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