Willy-willy wagtail: tales from the Bush Mob by Helen Milroy
Magabala Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781925936605.
(Age: 6+) Highly recommended. The first in a series of books about the Bush Mob, each showcases animals in their environment, solving problems and working together. In this book, the willy-wagtail is instrumental in gathering all the animals to work together. Initially they are unable to communicate, and she helps the animals understand each other. She helps Crow, now old and frail, bringing her food, and listening to her stories even though she has heard them before. Willy Wagtail learns all the languages and stories of the animals, and Crow helps by telling many of the tales. Willy Wagtail is now called the Messenger, because she can communicate with all the the others, and she is know as the messenger in many Aboriginal cultures around Australia.
The second story tells how Willy Wagtail and the wind became friends after the bird fell and hurt her wing. Unable to fly, the wind helped her stay upright, and Willy Willy played with her.
The last story tells of how Willy Wagtail gets all the animals to work together. How Willy Wagtail saved the bush mob tells when a bushfire appears, she must let all the animals know that they must head for the river to keep safe. But getting them to listen is problematic, so she enlists the help of old Crow. Eventually all the animals work together to get everyone to the river and safety.
A wonderfully positive group of stories, they tell readers about Australian animals and their environment, and through the stories of their problem solving, give lessons in communication and working together. Positive and encouraging, the tales are the first of a series which will be well used in classrooms crying out for credible stories from Aboriginal authors. Enlivened with richly detailed illustrations, using techniques used in Aboriginal art, readers will delight in picking out the animals as they read of their learning to cooperate.
Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia, and has written Backyard birds and Wombat, mudlark and other stories for Fremantle Press. Themes: Aboriginal tales, Willy-wagtail, Aboriginal themes, Aboriginal author, Aboriginal people, Dreaming stories.