Wylah the Koorie warrior: Guardians by Jordan Gould and Richard Pritchard

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Wylah the Koorie warrior: Guardians is the first book in the series.  The book is written by Peek Whurrong man Jordan Gould and New Zealand Samoan man Richard Pritchard (who also did the illustrations).  The book with the young Wylah as the central character,  is an exciting fantasy novel balanced with real snapshots of life in Australia 40,000 years ago. I was so excited to read this book and I wasn’t disappointed. 

Wylah is set around Warrnambool in Victoria and features real megafauna and fantasy dragons along with infomation about a First Nations group.  The book begins with Wylah's first day teaching the children cave painting. She is excited and nervous as she is not only teaching the young children art but also the other skills of her tribe. She is taking over from her beloved grandma, a Koorie Warrior, and while she is confident in her knowledge of art and ochre, she is not confident in her teaching skills or her ability to be a warrior and protector of the younger children. When she begins to lose the attention of the children she takes them outside the teaching cave to spend some time with her animals. She realised that she is missing one of the children and so she leaves the others with her grandma and heads back to find him.  A rock fall traps Wylah in the cave with the boy as dragons steal her entire village and when she emerges, she discovers her grandma is injured and Wylah is given the responsibility to become a warrior and rescue her people with the help of her animal friends and the five Guardians, who she has to find and convince to help her. 

Readers will enjoy this story as it is told in both the first and third person with a picture above each chapter number to help show when the reader is following Wylah and when the focus is on the rest of the tribe. I love all the little details in the book that support the reader with following the story, from footnotes, pronounciation support and a glossary.  I found this book to be a slow read, not because it was boring or tedious but because the language and the information were not part of my usual reading experience and so I had to spend longer thinking and re-reading parts to really appreciate and feel like I was understanding the story and the information that was included. This does not detract from the story in any way, in fact I think it makes it better - we need more stories that have a focus on our First Nations people and their beliefs and cultural information. Wylah allows the reader to learn these things while reading an engaging and imaginative story.  I can’t wait for the rest of the series as I know these will be very popular in libraries. Teacher's notes are available.

Themes: Family, First Nations, Dragons, Megafauna, Culture.

Mhairi Alcorn