Review Blog

Mar 02 2015

The Girl from the Great Sandy Desert by Jukuna Mona Chuguna and Pat Lowe

cover image

Ill. by Mervyn Street, Magabala Books, 2015. ISBN 9781922142054
(Age: 7-12 year) Recommended. The Girl from the Sandy Desert is a delightful introduction to the life of traditional Walmajarri people living in north-west Australia at a time when European settlement was only just beginning to have an impact on their lives. The personal stories combined with explanatory panels assist in understanding the cultural history and land usage of these original inhabitants and act as a valuable resource for areas of the Humanities curriculum.
Through these stories collected by Pat Lowe over the latter years of Jukuna's life we learn about the everyday life of Mana, her siblings, cousins, mothers and dogs as they eke out a living in the harsh conditions of the Sandy Desert. These are the experiences of a child born under a tree and growing up within her extended family structure before marriage and moving into station life.
Stories of the daily battle for that precious commodity water, from the need to always have water available especially on longer journeys to the danger of paying in waterholes are a told with gentle humour and honesty. Hunting and gathering food and using all the available resources the desert has to offer, from goannas and snakes to fruits and nuts, and stories centred on cultural obligations and family relationships are included.
Cultural insights and explanations are provided alongside the stories giving authentic information and assisting deeper understanding of these original inhabitants and their way of life. The black and white illustrations by Mervyn Street assist with a visual representation of aspects of each story. Walmajarri glossary and pronunciation guides have been added at the end to help understanding and round out the book.
Sue Keane

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