A Kunwinjku Counting Book by Felicity Wright, illustrated by Gabriel Maralngurra. Enchanted Lion, 2022. 9781592703562
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Format: Hardcover picture book
What did you like about the book? Ostensibly a counting book, this lavishly produced look at Australian animals is really an art book. Maralngurra, an Aboriginal Australian artist, draws inspiration from the traditional rock art of West Arnhem Land, while incorporating a modern sensibility. The highly stylized and detailed illustrations are done entirely in earth-tones, black, and white and feature the trademark x-ray look of rock art. Starting with one large crocodile, the artist counts up to twelve fish, the animals becoming more diminutive as they crowd the oversized pages. The text includes both the English and Kunwinjku names for the creatures (in contrasting black and russet fonts), accompanied by a short descriptive paragraph with information about their habitats, behaviors, and whether they are good to eat! The illustrations will reward careful and repeated examination and back matter includes information on the rock art tradition as well as a step-by-step exploration of how the art was created. Also included: a cyclical diagram explaining seasons in the outback, an interview with the artist, and a pronunciation guide.
Anything you didn’t like about it? I did not learn why rock art animals are so often portrayed standing upright, even though we would never see a crocodile or snake actually posed that way. I really want to know the answer to this question! Some of the counting would be challenging as the animals pile on to one another: I had a hard time with the geckos and the fish. So definitely come for the visuals, not the math.
To whom would you recommend this book? Students interested in Australian animals. This would be a great Own Voices text for a class studying Australia, possibly in collaboration with an art teacher who wants to do a project on rock art.
Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? 591.99
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? If you have a strong interest in the topic, the art is certainly eye-popping.
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: February 22, 2022