Wombat, Mudlark & other stories, by Helen Milroy
The enduring power of friendship, and being kind and helpful to others, are themes that link the eight stories in this book together. The animal protagonists in these stories show kindness, creativity, connection with community, and courage. Dingo and Moon help each other find their way in the darkness of night; Mudlark helps the Sun grieve the loss of his grandmother; the Sky and the Penguin help the Whale find his family. The animals and nature rely on each other, illuminating the circularity of these relationships.
Children may feel empowered as they see themselves reflected in the characteristics of the various animals. We are also shown that it is natural to sometimes feel sad or lonely. Many children may relate to the fear Moon feels when she loses her way in the dark and becomes trapped by ice crystals. But we are then gently shown that, through the help of loved ones, there will again be light in the dark.
We are encouraged to understand that if we listen to the land and live in harmony with it, in return the land will replenish and nurture us. Platypus and River work together to stop Little Stream going the wrong way, highlighting how the river system works together to nurture the land and
the animals. Tree provides shelter to Frilly the Lizard and in return Frilly provides laughter and joy to Tree with his stories and jokes.
This collection of stories encourages children to celebrate their rich imaginations, and the importance of learning through play and exploration of the natural world around them.
Vivid pictures are painted for the reader via the lyrical writing, which makes these stories a joy to read - the moon is described as being “shrouded in a glittering night sky.” Black and white illustrations at the beginning of each story imbue each animal with personality, and the detail of the patterns and flowing lines invite the reader to pause and examine each illustration - and perhaps reflect upon what characteristics each animal might possess before embarking on reading the story itself.
Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia, but was born and educated in Perth.