Bindi, by Kirli Saunders & Dub Leffler
This beautifully crafted verse novel for middle grade readers is truly a work of art - from the charcoal-smudged illustrations depicting the aftermath of bushfire, to the artful way in which words are placed on the page. I absolutely adored Kirli's exquisite picture book 'The Incredible Freedom Machines' and this verse novel is just as breathtakingly beautiful.
Bindi is 11 years old and enjoys hanging with her friends, creating art, and playing hockey (even though her hockey team never wins! - but the main thing is they have fun). But this is the year that is going to bring huge change to Bindi's world - not only does she break her wrist, but devastating bushfires hit her town. When Bindi finds a young black cockatoo with a broken wing, it reflects her sense of frailty and apprehension. How will Bindi and her friends find a way to heal and rejuvenate themselves in the aftermath of all this devastation?
The spare emotive text works beautifully with the gentle black and white illustrations to tell a story of friendship, courage and healing. Sometimes it is what is not said that is the most powerful message of all. The use of figurative language throughout provides a sense of lyricism, as well as adding extra layers of meaning and complexity to the story.
The placement of text on the page is also significant and worthy of careful attention - sometimes the words dance joyfully across the page; other times a single sentence on the page emphasises the importance and meaning of the text.
The young black cockatoo with the broken wing is a beautiful metaphor for the way in which Bindi is able to find healing and growth in the aftermath of the fires and her injury: spreading her own wings to find her sense of worth and source of inner strength; along with a new understanding that - like the earth when it was ravaged by fire - she will continue to persevere.
The cover itself is visually appealing (and yes - sometimes I DO judge a book by its cover!) - the smooth hardback cover with its charcoal design and gold foil writing inviting an almost tactile response. Young hands will no doubt delight in holding this book and flicking through the pages.
This story shines a light on the importance of caring for Country and nurturing our environment - with several references to the importance of allowing for backburning as advocated by "our Old People." The way in which Bindi interacts with nature and the animals in her care will also delight young readers, who will enjoy reading about her symbiotic relationship with them - with animals and humans both nurturing and gaining strength from each other.
This book could be used as a platform for discussion of themes such as caring for our environment and animals; bushfires and backburning; culture and identity; and the way in which creativity can be empowering and healing. Bindi's art throughout the text provides an outlet for making sense of what is going on and embarking on the path to healing.
The inclusion of Gundungurra language is beautifully threaded throughout the narrative - with a glossary of Gundungurra words at the back of the book to refer to.
This book is highly recommended for your home or school library.
Published by Magabala Books