Wednesday 6 February 2013

Butcher Paper, Texta, Blackboard and Chalk

Butcher Paper, Texta, Blackboard and Chalk by Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach, illustrations by Ruby Hunter (One Day Hill)
PB RRP $24.99
ISBN 978-0-9807948– 4-7
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Butcher Paper, Texta, Blackboard and Chalk was envisioned by Ruby Hunter as an illustrated songbook/album and the title song sums up just how the songs within the pages came into being.

In 1997 Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach, with three of their sons, went to Cape York on a Land and Health tour. They travelled around the peninsula visiting kindergartens and primary schools running workshops in song writing. This collection of songs was written by Ruby and the children of Cape York about what they see and experience in their everyday lives.

The songs are stories, often universal and relevant to the lives of all children. Some songs, such as ‘I Love my Garden’, are beautiful to read as poetry and will resonate with children all over the world. Others, such as ‘Stone Finder’, serve as oral tradition, and are more specific to the Indigenous culture.

Ruby Hunter’s vibrant paintings illustrate the song lyrics throughout the book. They radiate the same energetic and joyous outlook as the songs and represent the simple stories of life.
Accompanying the book is a CD with recordings of all the songs, most of which are sung by Ruby Hunter and Archie Roach. These catchy songs for children range from bouncy sing-alongs to mellow quiet listening ones. All have something to say about the world.

On the flip side of the CD is a DVD with a documentary of the Land & Health tour. Archie describes their journey as ‘sharing the spirit of unbroken traditions’. Ruby talks about writing the songs of life and hope. Her enthusiasm and connection with the children is strongly evident and the power of song and music shines throughout the documentary.

This book, CD and DVD offers a fantastic way for children to share the experiences of indigenous children and to recognise how much we are all the same at heart. The publication of this songbook was realised after Ruby Hunter’s death (in 2010) and is a fitting tribute to a talented woman.

All the profits from the sale of the book go to Ruby’s Foundation. For more information go to

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