Mrs White and the Red Desert

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Josie Wowolla Boyle (text), Maggie Prewett (illus.) Mrs White and the Red Desert, Magabala Books, April 2017,  32pp., $17.99 (pbk) ISBN: 9781925360578

This is another excellent production from publisher of indigenous stories, Magabala books. In Mrs White and the Red Desert, author Josie Wowolla Boyle tells a story from her childhood. Living in the desert

‘in a corrugated iron house that was wavy and buckled and bent just like our grandmothers hair,’

the children invited their teacher, the aptly named Mrs White to their ‘red desert home‘ to show her why their homework was always so grubby. When showing Mrs White their ‘higgledy piggledy‘ garden, a sandstorm whips up and engulfs them, turning everything red and ruining the dinner, providing Mrs White with a clear demonstration of the children’s struggles to have clean homework!

This is a beautiful book in which the rich poetic language and bold, full page watercolour illustrations vividly conjure a sense of place and drama. The clever juxtaposition of the contrasting red and white acts as a motif throughout the story, which has at its heart a message of cross cultural understanding. Full of delightful details like the children rubbing the stains off their homework with slices of bread, and imagining crows dressed up in hats and high heels to go shopping in town, this is a wonderful book that will delight any child whilst having a deeper resonance for those with an indigenous background. With themes of heritage, country and understanding, this book is for children three to eight years. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Debra Tidball

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