It is the moment just before night turns to morning. Mirri is in his favorite tree because he has been unable to sleep. Today, Mirri's friend and elder will take him into the outback of Australia and he will learn about the time when the earth was formed. Today is the day of Animal Dreaming. This is an aboriginal folktale about a boy coming of age. Mirri will take the reader on the journey with him through the dark past, into the future. Author Paul Morin tells a story of friendship and tradition as he introduces the reader to the customs and traditions of this people. The author traveled these lands in 1996 and was taught these stories by the elders of one of the aboriginal tribes still living in Australia. This is a worthwhile addition to middle school multicultural collections, but would not be recommended for upper elementary.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6In the frame story, an Aboriginal elder begins to teach his young charge the ways and beliefs that will initiate him into manhood. They walk into the outback and stop to rest at a campsite surrounded by rock paintings. The next morning, the elder tells a creation story based on the paintings. In it, greedy birds decide they want the wetland to themselves, and the other animals fight them. Three creatures do not join in the battlea kangaroo, a turtle, and an emu; instead, they go to the place where the boy and elder now stand. The three animals each has a dream connected to water; these dreams are depicted in the stylized paintings on the rock. Upon awakening, they use the power of their dreams to help restore peace. There is no attempt to impose a moral, or to explain what motivates the birds' greed. The power of the book resides in the vividly realistic depiction of the humans and the setting, and the equally vivid but highly stylized representation of the dreaming. Although the palette is dominated by the brown tones of the Australian earth, interesting textures and tonal contrasts give richness to each page. Morin sensitively and effectively draws on Aboriginal paintings in the myth-based sections of the book. His strong compositions and dramatic verve are riveting.Patricia Lothrop-Green, St. George's School, Newport, RI
Within this beautifully illustrated book is the story of the Dreamtime of the Australian Aboriginal peopleþhow the animals of long ago created a world in which they all lived in peace and harmony. Gadurra, an elder, takes a young boy, Mirri, who is also his friend, into the outback and tells him about the time when the earth was first shaped. They look at the rock paintings and Gadurra instructs Mirri: "Sit quietly, my friend, and see what the paintings tell you." And thus, through oral history, the traditions of Animal Dreaming have been handed down in the land around Kakadu. Mirri learns about his heritage and his place in his land through the stories of the Animal Dreaming; readers learn about ancestral spirits, sacred places, and respect for ceremony. Morin's bold paintings reflect Aboriginal rock art, the images of the traditional Dreamtime, and vividly realistic portraits of the boy and his elder. (glossary) (Picture book. 6-10)