Review: The Dunggiirr Brothers And The Caring Song Of The Whale

Indigenous elder Aunty Shaa Smith and her community take us on a journey into the mid-north NSW coast in this beautiful picture book, which has a wonderfully striking artwork of Garruuja the whale on the cover.

The Dungiirr Borthers are Koala Brothers, and legend has it that they built a bridge across the water to save Aunty Shaa’s people who became stuck, when the sea rose. 

Garruuja is important to this story as the Caring Whale who sang a song of love to the people and welcomed them home. Today, these stories are kept alive through ceremony, song, story and memory.

Rich with resource material, images and ideas, this book is not one to rush. It entwines stories and language with current-day preparations for ceremony – to honour and share the stories in different ways.

This picture book begs to be read out loud even if some of the unfamiliar indigenous words don’t sit easily on the tongue. The spaces and silences between the words are equally as important as the words themselves. In fact, I read it several times and am still absorbing the substance of this book.

The illustrations are a wonderful combination of photographs and paintings created with pastel and paint, often both in the same double spread. For instance, a photo of Aunty Shaa and family walking in tall grasses beside the ocean, is overlaid with a painting of the koala bridge which came in when the sea was made – to great effect.

The whale from the title, along with her Caring Song, are introduced toward the end of the book. It’s very powerful to see the language written and to try to speak it. I would have really loved some phonetic assistance or even a tune to help me along! Perhaps that’s just me.

This book brings us so much: photos, landscapes, paintings, artefacts, language, culture and Country. A beautiful offering for children to connect to community, landscape and Country.

Title: The Dunggiirr Brothers And The Caring Song Of The Whale
Author: Aunty Shaa Smith with Yandaarra
Illustrator: Aunty Shaa Smith
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $24.99
Publication Date: 1 March 2022
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781760526313
For ages: 7 -12
Type: Picture Book

March 4, 2022 at 12:31AM DimbutNice