Nina Lawrence (text) and Bronwyn Bancroft (illustrator), Clever Crow, Magabala Books, November 2018, 36 pp., RRP $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9781922142610
Clever Crow is a story of a hungry crow who steals a turtle egg – a task more difficult than he first thinks. It is a simple story that uses plain language to tell a tale that also introduces us to Australian animals, fishing and ceremonial dancing.
One of the most notable features of the book is the Djambarrpuynu (a Yolnu language from North East Arnhem land) translation that is woven into the design. This is extended at the end of the book with a glossary of words and an orthography which gives tips for sounding out letters phonetically. The author, Nina Lawrence, is a descendant of the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji mob and is passionate about the preservation and promotion of Indigenous Australian languages.
The story is also accompanied by illustrations that utilise Indigenous Australian art techniques. These wonderful, bold, colourful illustrations are by award-winning illustrator, Bronwyn Bancroft, who is a Djanbun clan member of the Bundjalung Nation.
Although the story is simple, it has a nice pace to it, and feels a lot like a story that would be told in an oral storytelling tradition. The celebration of Indigenous culture and language is an important part of this book, and a vital contribution in keeping these languages alive. This book would be suitable for younger children from 2 to 4 years of age – it didn’t hold the attention of my 5 year old – but could also be used in classrooms to promote understanding of Australia’s Indigenous culture and language.
Reviewed by Rebecca Blakeney