Bindi (Kirli Saunders, illus by Dub Leffler, Magabala)
Multi–award winning author and poet Kirli Saunders turns her talent to junior fiction with this wonderfully engaging verse novel, which won the inaugural WA Premier’s Daisy Utemorrah Award. Eleven-year-old Bindi lives with her family in a country town: ‘Growing here/I am an empath of the land/lover of art/horses/and hockey.’ Bindi’s town is devastated by a bushfire, and the novel gently entreats readers to consider the guidance of First Nations communities with regard to conservation practices. Saunders notes that Bindi is ‘in many ways autobiographical’ and this is evident in the way she so keenly evokes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in the country. Indeed, Saunders’ intensely evocative prose conjured memories of the long summer evenings, dry grass and petrichor of this reviewer’s own country childhood. The seamless interweaving of English and Gundungurra words is wonderful and, although there is a glossary at the back, Saunders’ skill at melding the two languages ensures that understanding can be gained from context. With gorgeous black and white illustrations by the esteemed Dub Leffler, Bindi is a must-read for ages seven and up.
Hannah Gardiner has a master of arts and a master of research in children’s literature, and works as a children’s book buyer.