Tuesday 28 June 2011

Pirate the Barking Kookaburra

Pirate the Barking Kookaburra by Adrian Plitzco (Bubenberg Audio)
RRP $24.95 (ebook version free)
ISBN 978-0-646-54287-4
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Music and sound effects play a significant role in this artful audio book. It acts as background entertainment but it’s also what gives the story extra sparkle and visibility. The wonderful whistling sequences is anticipation of joy. The saxophone is the kookaburras’ laugh which encourages laughter. The tinkling of the piano keys and the marching drumbeats add rhythm and substance to the superbly narrated story.

Pirate is a baby kookaburra who doesn’t know what he is. Pirate by name, nature and appearance, he was born with a patch over one eye and a black line circling his head. He has a strong sense of adventure, daring and boasts a fun-seeking soul. Found barely alive by a group of animal friends during a thunderstorm, he is warmed and revived by Stelze the dog who becomes his adopted mother.  Buddha the cat claims a place of significance in Pirate’s life after sharing his food to nourish the bird. It is from the dogs that Pirate learns to make his first sounds and they are nothing like a bird’s call or a kookaburra’s laugh.

Buddha and Stelze belong to the farm. Ajax and Hoover are neighbouring dogs. Buddha is convinced all dogs are idiots with limited or no brains. But the animals share a wonderful camaraderie, accepting each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Pirate enters this friendly circle with one shortcoming. He can’t remember anything before the storm.

Their first mission is to try find Pirate’s memory, for to Ajax and Hoover it is a lost thing to be found. These two also have many far-fetched theories about Pirate’s roots. Their airy-fairy imaginings make them lovable and laughable characters.

The search for the lost memory takes the group on a journey. For Pirate, it is all a game. Everything is fun to be had, games to be played; until he meets Tiger, the snake.

But Tiger is not Pirate’s only problem. He is ridiculed and bullied by the kookaburras for his inability to laugh. Painful pictures of his past flash through his mind and interesting metaphors, fleeting but clear, are used to describe the obstruction of Pirate’s memory. His flashbacks reveal why he cannot laugh and the reason for his fears.

There is more to this audio book than a story about a kookaburra. It has themes of childhood trauma, disassociation, identity, bullying, and the value of true friendship.

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