Author/Illustrator: Gregg Dreise
Publisher: Magabala Books
Comments: Kookoo Kookaburra is an Indigenous story about kindness. Kookoo has a knack for telling funny stories about others without being unkind, and the bush animals love listening to him. When his stories become teasing, however, he finds himself without an audience. Uncle Googaguga, his Elder, offers wise advice, but Kookoo is reluctant to listen.
Kindness is like a boomerang – if you throw it often, it comes back often.
I recently wrote some lesson plan ideas for The School Magazine (Countdown: Vol 100, No 6) based on Dreise’s last picture book, Silly Birds, so I was very keen to see this new offering. If you are already familiar with Silly Birds, you’ll immediately notice similarities on the covers, and throughout. I especially love the way Dreise plays with multilayered visual perspectives. On the front cover Kookoo is represented side-on, in a style fairly typical of picture books. In addition to this we see the aerial view of Kookoo’s tracks. Although an aerial view is unusual in a picture book, it is common in Indigenous art. Finally, we see the characteristic dots and concentric circles. These appear throughout the book in the sky, on the trees, on the ground, and on Kookoo himself. Oh, and don’t skip over the gorgeous endpapers featuring boomerangs and circles.
An excellent mid-primary classroom activity would be a comparative analysis of the similarities and differences between Maliyan (the main character in Silly Birds) and Kookoo. For example, check out the following illustrations placed alongside each other!
Gregg Dreise’s books definitely deserve a place in classrooms and school libraries. I think Magabala have done a beautiful job with these colourful, inviting books. While the teacher’s notes recommend Kookoo Kookaburra for early childhood, in my opinion it is more suitable for low-middle primary, depending on the depth of discussion and analysis you have in mind.
Teacher Tip: It’s NAIDOC week! This is the perfect new picture book to share in Week 1 as students return for Term 3. Not only does it celebrate Indigenous culture and story telling, but it reminds all students about the importance of treating each other respectfully.
*I received a review copy of Kookoo Kookaburra courtesy of Magabala. No payment was received for review and all comments are based on my own professional opinion.