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Introducing the picture book ‘Little Bird’s Day’

Little Bird’s Day is the first picture book to be published through Magabala Books’ Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award, teaming artist Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr with renowned author and illustrator Sally Morgan. This ‘beautiful, distinctive publication with global appeal’ tells ‘a simple, universal story of a day in the life of Little Bird’, says Magabala Books publisher Rachel Bin Salleh. Little Bird’s Day will be published in Australia in April 2019.

What is your pitch for Little Bird’s Day?

A simple, universal story of a day in the life of Little Bird as she sings the world alive, flies with Cloud, travels with Wind, nestles with Moon and dreams of flying among the stars.

Sally Morgan’s beautiful words and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr’s sensitive artwork combine to make this a beautiful, distinctive publication with global appeal. Johnny infuses his illustrations with his fine-art aesthetic, his traditional motifs and a quirky sense of humour.

Who are the creators?

Sally Morgan is one of Australia’s best-known Aboriginal artists and writers. Sally’s widely acclaimed first book My Place has sold over half a million copies in Australia, and she is the author of numerous children’s books.

Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr is the winner of Magabala’s inaugural Kestin Indigenous Illustrator Award. Johnny is a Yolŋu man who lives in the remote community of Gapuwiyak in North East Arnhem Land. A fine artist, his work is steeped in his knowledge of culture and country. He is the Chairperson of Gapuwiak Culture and Arts. 

The award mentors Australia Indigenous artists and emerging illustrators in the art of children’s picture book illustration.

Have any international rights been sold?

Not yet.

Why do you think this picture book will appeal to international readers?

It is a whimsical, universal tale that children everywhere will identify with. It also has a fresh and unique aesthetic—Australian Indigenous visual artists are acclaimed worldwide and Little Bird’s Day brings the beauty of this work to an early childhood audience.

When asked by the Australian newspaper why he decided to try illustration, Johnny said, ‘I always knew how to paint about my totem; my father taught me, and it’s my mother’s tribal painting, I can do that. But when I did this painting, I feel [that the reason for painting is] so kids will be happy, they can see the pictures and read clearly.’

Has Magabala had any rights success with other titles?

One of the most recent international rights successes we have had for our picture books was Steve goes to Carnival by Joshua Button and Robyn Wells to Candlewick Press/Walker Books in the US.

Magabala Books is Australia’s leading Indigenous publisher. For rights enquiries contact Rachel Bin Salleh .


Category: Think Australian Junior Profile