Thursday 8 October 2015

How Turtle Got His Shell and Other Stories

How Turtle Got His Shell and Other Stories by James Vance Marshall, illustrated by Francis Firebrace (Walker Books)
PB RRP $ 19.95
ISBN 9781922077219

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This collection of Dreamtime Myths, legends and folklore is amazing. The content focuses on the environment and nature, and how important it is to care for the earth and waterways. The stories are written in a way that will inspire children to focus on caring for our world, while they simultaneously learn the legends of our Indigenous people.

Compiled of ten stories in addition to several random pages on selected subjects, each story is followed by a page of information on the main object. For example, after the story of Why Young Koalas Cling to their Mother’s Back we learn about koalas: their main features, what they eat, their natural habitat, why their numbers are declining, and how they can be protected.

How Animals First Came to Australia heads the line. The information that follows tells us ‘why the animals of Australia are unique.’ It continues with the greed of a frog named Tidalick and his outcome, and about the vindictive Purrah, who stole the Desert people’s water and tried to hide in the clouds.

Learning about the role bees (there are 20,000 species) and flies (122,000 species) each with a specific role to play will change your perception of these two insects forever.

The title story of How the Turtle Got Its Shell is a legend of love and punishment for disobedience. The young Yiddiki, while out hunting, discovers a log that becomes the didgeridoo. A seemingly insignificant frill-necked lizard has the power to stop the drought, but can’t get anyone to listen to him.

There is a wonderful tale on how the Murray River was created and the last legend refers to Why the Stars of the Southern Cross Shine so Brightly.

All the stories are mesmerising. There is a rich Glossary at the end followed by two pages of Aboriginal Symbols and their Meaning.

The illustrations created with acrylics are outstanding. Rich earthy brown, ochre, black, green, blue and red represent the trees, rivers, sky and the people so beautifully. There are full-page illustrations without text, pages interspersed with text, and text decorated by art. Full of vibrant colour, this attractive book is a valuable learning tool for students of the 9+ age group, and those interested in Indigenous culture.

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