Mum’s Elephant (Maureen Jipiyiliya Nampijinpa O’Keefe, illus by Christina Booth, Magabala)
Maureen Jipiyiliya Nampijinpa O’Keefe has spun a cherished childhood memory into a beguiling tale for children in this debut picture book. In its pages she reflects on her mum’s ‘elephant’, a special object that played a central role in her family’s daily life. Sly hints as to the object’s true nature (a shiny aluminium teapot!) are tucked into O’Keefe’s narration, as well as revealed in glimmers throughout the bold illustrations from Tasmanian artist Christina Booth. O’Keefe, a Kaytetye-Walpiri woman who grew up in a remote community in the Northern Territory, provides an authentic glimpse into a distinctive world and Booth’s use of vibrant hues enlivens the stark landscapes of the desert and bush. The joy and value of community lies at the centre of this story—the teapot, which comes out whenever friends visit, is valued for its ability to spark conversations and shared stories—and O’Keefe’s gentle humour illuminates the creative and transformative power of a child’s perspective on an adult world. Mum’s Elephant is a welcome addition to the growing number of stories being shared by First Nations writers. While it’s ideally suited to children aged two to five, it could also easily be used as a teaching tool with older children.
Bronte Coates is the digital content manager and prizes manager at Readings