Family by Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson

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Illus. by Jasmine Seymour. Magabala Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781925936285.
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. Boonwurrung Elder, Aunty Fay Muir has written two books with Sue Lawson: Nganga, and picture book, Respect, illustrated by Lisa Kennedy. Now comes a third collaboration, Family, just as impressive, showing readers what family means to Aboriginal children. It is part of their heritage, a sense of family and community, of home and country, of deep understanding and love, all tied together with one word, Family. A universal concept, the many facets of the theme are shown in this book as the children work through their days, playing games, making things for the community, yarning with old people, singing songs, looking after the environment, fishing in the sea, listening to aunties and uncles, dancing and drawing. Each double page shows the children pursuing an activity which involves their family, learning from their community, listening to the ways their community works, listening to their extended family. Each spread has only a few phrases but each is redolent of the connection between the country and family, the connection between heart and home.
The words have been pared down to a basic tenet; the simplicity of these few words a springboard to a galaxy of meanings and responses, ensuring that children reading the words will see much more, enlivening their reading.
Alongside the words are bright, vivacious illustrations, done in a naive style, equally layered and full of meaning, pushing the reader to see more than is in front of them. I love the endpapers with their rock art symbols, the ochre colours reflecting the pale etchings across the pages, while many of the pages depict children talking, dancing, singing, working with family groups. The family is where ideas are passed on, lessons taught, beliefs recognised, but at its heart, it is home, a place of safety, love and caring.
Themes: Aboriginal themes, Families, Love, Culture.
Fran Knight