Review Blog

Nov 20 2017

Mrs White and the Red Desert by Josie Wowolla Boyle

cover image

Ill. by Maggie Prewett. Magabala Books, 2017. ISBN 9781925360578
(Age: 3-7) Highly recommended. Themes: Aboriginal life, Culture and identity, Australia - Social life and customs. Magabala Books continues to publish an excellent range of indigenous stories, perfectly suited 'to providing an opportunity for all young Australians to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures'. ACARA. Mrs White and the Red Desert is an engaging and colourful story reminiscing about the author's childhood. They lived in the red, sandy desert 'in a corrugated iron house that was wavy and buckled and bent just like our grandmothers hair.' The children played in mud and drew in the rich red sand. She remembers higgledy-piggledy houses and gardens, the hot winds blowing through the nail holes and wooden shutters.
This is a gorgeous sensory story, the changing weather having an effect on her family, the rain's soft pitter-patter on the tin roof and cold night winds racing through their house. Josie Wowolla Boyle's imagination turns to humour when the early morning crows clatter across the rood dressed for shopping.
Mrs White their teacher expresses concern when the children's homework is handed up, each page is grubby and covered in red dust. Her visit to the children's desert house proves enlightening, the house is cleaned, the table set and their homework cleaned with slices of bread, however only grandmother is watching the skies. Mrs White in her pristine clothes and hat is caught in the wild sandstorm and everything inside and outside the house is covered in red dust, even their teacher.
Josie Wowolla Boyle's beautiful evocative story includes gorgeous imagery and rich language and Maggie Prewett's vibrant watercolour illustrations perfectly build the sense of place and drama. Earthy tones with bold sweeps of red and white add depth to this childhood memory. Mrs White and the Red Desert is a wonderful book to share with a young audience, my Reception History classes delighted in the alliterative text and vibrant images of the crows on the roof decked out in hats and high heels. A perfect picture book to inspire art lessons, to encourage children to write stories of their own childhood and to explore the concepts of aboriginal heritage and connection to country.
Rhyllis Bignell

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