Clever crow by Nina Lawrence

cover image

Ill. by Bronwyn Bancroft, Magabala Books, 2018. ISBN 9781922142610
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Aboriginal themes. Crows. Cleverness. Language. Crow flies around the countryside looking for food, he is hungry and no matter how far he searches, he cannot find anything to eat. He spies several young men preparing for a ceremony, while their mother fans a fire ready to cook a turtle egg. Crow spies the egg and swoops down to grab it in his beak. But other animals are cleverer than he. Kookaburra laughs, making crow laugh and the egg drops from his beak. It rolls into the waiting pouch of a wallaby, but when she goes to rest in the shade, it rolls out of her pouch and onto the riverbank. Nearby an old man is fishing and spies the egg, taking it onto his boat. He knows someone will be happy to eat this egg, and finds several young men and their mother on the riverbank preparing for a ceremony, the perfect recipients for the egg. But crow is still watching, and when the egg is handed over he swoops, taking the egg back again and flying off with his prize.
A delightfully funny and rounded story of being clever, crow will make readers laugh as they watch his antics at getting food for his empty stomach. The stunning illustrations complement the story, with their bold, black outlines and techniques reflecting dot paintings. Award winning illustrator, Bronwyn Bancroft, a Djanbun clan member, brings her vast experience to the story, adding levels of interest to the story of the crow which will engage and delight younger readers. In telling the story of crow, Nina Lawrence, from the Yidinji of Far North Queensland, reflects the community of her childhood and the stories she heard of survival in the bush.
The book has parallel texts, of English and Yolngu of Arnhem Land and the latter seems almost woven into the illustrations as it follows the repeated band of colour and dots across the bottom of each page, drawing the eye to the unfamiliar words, which are given in translation in a glossary at the end of the book.
This book gives so much more than the simple story told. Children will talk about the ceremony and what the boys are doing, they will ask questions about their mother building a fire, and the food that people eat and how it is collected, they will wonder at the things the people are doing. Each page will produce questions from the listeners and I can imagine many students trying out Bancroft's illustrative style as well as speaking the language for themselves.
Fran Knight