Found (Bruce Pascoe, illus by Charmaine Ledden-Lewis, Magabala)
The first foray into picture books for Bruce Pascoe (author of the wildly successful Dark Emu) is deceptively straightforward: a frightening separation (don’t worry, there’s a happy ending) between a young calf and its family. The story is simple—suited to pre- and early primary schoolers—with short sentences, using repetition, and typography that emphasises particular words (as in school readers). But the subject matter is not: Found is a softened and cautiously optimistic version of a disgraceful history that must not be forgotten: the Stolen Generations. Charmaine Ledden-Lewis’ rich illustrations in the deep, bold colours of the Australian desert never let us forget where we are and whose story this is. The little cow represents Indigenous children taken from their families by the government, a shameful practice that took place as late as the 1960s. This picture book will be an excellent way to introduce that history to children, and to begin or support discussions about it (a useful inclusion might have been an introduction or authors’ note to help direct readers and teachers to further resources). The calf’s reunion with its family is poignant, both the words and pictures conveying the power of community and connection. Using animals to analogise human stories is a tried and true way to make complex events and ideas accessible for young children, and this is no exception.
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg is a freelance editor, writer and reviewer, and has worked as a bookseller at the Hobart Bookshop for over 10 years.