DREISE, Gregg Silly Birds Magabala, 2014 unpaged $24.95 ISBN 9781922142993 SCIS 1661282
Maliyan is a young proud eagle who listens to his parents and elders and learns from them to look and listen and to speak little. He meets Wagun, a turkey and ‘wombah thigaraas’ or ‘silly bird’ who disregards the advice of the elders and who speaks far too much. Maliyan and Wagun form a friendship based on frivolity which other young birds soon join too. In their juvenile arrogance they pollute the billabong so there is no water to drink, and eat far too much so that food becomes scarce. Maliyan’s parents become very worried at their son’s behaviour and when Maliyan sees their distress he begins to reform. He inspires the other young birds to listen to the advice of the elders and to clean up and look after their country. Wagun, however, will not change and so the turkey remains to this day scratching in the dirt and not good at flying.
This cautionary tale uses terms taken from the Gamilaraay language spoken by the Kamilaroi people of south-western Queensland and north-western New South Wales. The colourful full page illustrations also use indigenous painting techniques and symbols which give the text a Dreamtime quality. While the mythic form of the tale finds its roots in indigenous culture, it speaks to the concerns of all parents that their children will fall into poor habits and bad company. Its simple but important message is summarized in the final page. The closing line of the text is ‘it is hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys,’ and this aphorism is clearly and cleverly demonstrated in this book suitable for readers of primary school age.
reviewed by John Nolan