Little Bird’s Day by Sally Morgan, illustrated by Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr

Little Bird’s Day by Sally Morgan, illustrated by Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr. Blue Dot, 2021. 9781736226469

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or Starred review)  4

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book? Morgan, a prolific Palyku author from Western Australia, presents the daily activities of Little Bird— a silver-crowned friarbird (Philemon argenticeps)— from “warbl[ing] with Sun / to wake the lazy sleepers” to “journey[ing] with Dusk / to find a welcoming tree”. Morgan’s text is spare and beguiling, admonishing Little Bird to greet Sun, Wind, Cloud, Rain, Dusk, and Moon with a gentle and companionable reverence.

Morgan’s finest touch is her restraint: she allows Yolŋu illustrator Malibirr to truly shine— in this, his debut picture book— across fifteen double-page spreads, three of them wordless. Working with a color palette that nods to natural pigments (rich ochre, rose vale, charcoal black, and white), Malibirr’s stunning illustrations draw on traditional Aboriginal raark or cross-hatching styles. An endnotes spread explains that Malibirr depicts animals local to the Arnhem Land of Australia’s Northern Territory, the homeland of the Ganalbingu clan to which Malibirr belongs, and that the silver-crowned friarbird, the Djulwaḏak, figures prominently in songlines of his mother’s Wägilak clan, wherein it “calls to everyone in their own language”.  Endnotes tell readers that “Indigenous Australia is made up of Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islanders from hundreds of different and distinct nation groups, each with their own culture, customs, language, and laws”.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Morgan’s descriptions sometimes verge on the mawkish (“Time to bathe, Little Bird, / time to sparkle with freshness”); but this is a matter of opinion, and a minor one besides.

To whom would you recommend this book? Early childhood education centers; elementary school and public library collections.

Who should buy this book? A first purchase for early childhood educators, and for elementary school and public libraries; an #OwnVoices picture book from Australia, which will make a welcome and timely addition to all shelves.

Where would you shelve it? Picture books.

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Zeb Wimsatt, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Date of review: 27 July 2021

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