Wurrtoo: The wombat who fell in love with the sky by Tylissa Elisara. Illus. by Dylan Finney

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This beautifully written debut novel by First Nations author Tylissa Elisara is an engaging read full of humour, friendship, courage, and important teaching and learning traditions of our oldest culture. Set in the stunning environment of Kangaroo Island located off the South Australian coast, the story is about the adventures of Wurrtoo, a lonely hairy nosed wombat and Kuula, a bubbly adventurous koala.

Wurrtoo is desperate to travel to the Forest of Dreaming on the mainland to marry his one true love, the Sky. Kuula and the other animals encountered along the way are amused and sceptical of this but offer support in all sorts of ways, both helpful and unhelpful. The two friends face danger from other animals and deadly natural disasters but does Wurrtoo eventually achieve what he set out to do?

The animals in the story take on human characteristics and the black and white illustrations of the main characters in familiar items of clothing, as well as drawings of moments on their adventure, adds visual appeal that complements the narrative perfectly. As part of their journey Wurrtoo and Kuula share meals showing the interesting use of traditional foods, and visit various places on Kangaroo Island, all wonderfully described in rich expressive language.

Wurrtoo: The Wombat Who Fell in Love with the Sky would make a wonderful class novel for Year 3 or 4 students. The thoughtful wisdom shared about caring for Country and the growing friendship and trust between Wurrtoo and Kuula enable this book to offer so much deep learning for the classroom. Teacher's notes are available.

Themes: First Nations, Kangaroo Island, Australian Animals, Courage, Dreaming Stories, Humour, Friendship, Adventure, Environmental Issues.

Kathryn Beilby