Wombat, mudlark and other stories by Helen Milroy
Fremantle Press, 2019. ISBN: 9781925815818.
(Age: 7+) Recommended. Themes: Aboriginal stories, Pilbara, Western Australia. Eight stories about the environment from Helen Milroy descended from the Palyku people of the Pilbrara region of Western Australia, adds to the number of stories told with an Aboriginal perspective which encourages people to more appreciate our shared heritage.
These stories, from Wombat appreciating Mother Earth and her allowing him to burrow deep down into her soil to let him sleep, to the Mudlark singing to the Sun each day as he warms the pool to let the bird splash in the mud without getting cold, each story tells of the relationship between the animals and their environment in which they live, detailing their friendship and dependence one upon the other, underlining the fact that we are all responsible for our environment and at the same time giving a social dictum for younger readers to live by.
The book is one of a group published by Fremantle Press, Eagle, Crow and Emu (2016) Cyclones and Shadows (2017) and Bush and Beyond (2018) each presenting Indigenous authors and their stories. Traditional Indigenous stories share information about their cultures, wrapped in a story that captivates, enlightens and amuses. So we see how animals came to be, their link to the Mother Earth, the Sun, Moon and Comets, and learn a little of the spirituality of their beliefs. But at its heart is a good story well told and these four books offer stories that present basic understandings to the readers.
In the story, 'Gecko and Big Rock', for example, the two are friends, and when the sky darkens and blocks the sun, Gecko is cold. He asks his friend, Big Rock to help, and he goes off to bring back many rocks to pile on top of each other to reach into the sky, allowing the lizard to access the sunlight to keep warm. The story tells of the relationship between the animals and their environment in a way that everyone can understand, emphasising the need one for the other, giving reasons why these things occur and how they evolved back before time. Each of the eight stories gives new life to a tale of the environment, helping readers see how each can apply not only to the animals but also the people who inhabit this country.