Sunday 29 October 2023

Walk With Us: Welcome to Country

Walk With Us: Welcome to Country by Adam Goodes & Ellie Laing illustrated by David Hardy (Allen & Unwin) PB HB RRP $24.99 9781761065071

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Inspired by the Uluru Statement from the heart, Walk with Us is an invitation to go on a journey of learning and appreciation. This is the fourth book in the bestselling Welcome to Our Country Series between Adnyamathanha and Narungga man Adam Goodes and communications executive Ellie Laing and Barkindji illustrator David Hardy. It aims to connect children, parents, and educators with First Nations history culture.

Adam Goodes is a former Australian Rules Footballer named Australian of the Year in 2014. With a diploma in Aboriginal studies and with his own young daughter becoming a preschooler, Adam became motivated to publish a series of books for children and families about Australia’s First Nations history. Ellie Laing collaborated with Adam and has completed studies in Traditional Aboriginal Cultures. David Laing has over eight years’ experience with Walt Disney Animation. He has illustrated quite a few published picture books.

Harvey comes home and shares his learning about acknowledging country and sings his favourite Aboriginal song. This gives mum an idea and they head to their favourite park on Cammeraygal land (Northern Beaches). There they join a walk with Uncle Boris who awakens the ancestors. As they walk and talk, they all share and experience Aboriginal culture.

The text uses language that reflects Aboriginal culture. The story is well written and told from Harvey’s perspective. It shows Harvey’s appreciation and willingness to share and learn about Aboriginal culture. At the park. the text shares the viewpoint of place through different eyes, that of Aboriginal elder Uncle Boris.

The language used introduces Aboriginal words and the way the land gifts to us all. The dialogue is a natural and helps the story flow easily and naturally. ‘We call it tologura,’ says Uncle Boris. ‘Our people use these leaves to heal cuts and scratches.’ The words deliver a lovely message of mutual respect. Uncle Boris smiles. ‘Don’t ever stop singing, young fella. The ancestors love it. The ending showcases that by sharing Aboriginal culture we can all learn and grow together.

David Hardy’s illustrations are bold and bright. The cover shows the setting and the story characters, the bold orange title attracts the eye. I particularly love the end papers because they share Australian animals, plants, and places with both Aboriginal and English names. The joy of Harvey as a character and his willingness to learn and share about Aboriginal culture is shown in his face and body movements. The bush at the park and the track is realistic and the characters softly shine as Uncle Boris shares. The page where the bush lights up is truly beautiful as the ancestors awaken and Harvey is bathed in a golden light. The illustrations really awaken the senses of a reader. Aboriginal History is shown positively when the First Fleet sailed through the Heads. 

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