My girragundji by Meme McDonald and Boori Pryor

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760297107
(Age: 6+) Highly recommended. Themes: Aboriginal themes. Bullying. Talisman. Growing up. This wonderful little book burst onto the scene in 1998, and a reprint for its twentieth anniversary is most welcome. Semi-autobiographical, it tells the story of a young Aboriginal boy sandwiched between two worlds, and bullied at school because of his colour.
Based on the story of Boori's pet frog, the boy in this story builds confidence with the little frog beside him. It hops through the louvre windows into his room one night and tells him that she will always be there, their spirits will be together and be strong. With the frog's support he repels the bully at school, talks to the girl next door who he is keen on, shakes off the hairyman who terrorises the house and walks through the mangroves unafraid.
A delightful story of growing up, of knowing who you are in an unsettling world, My girragundji speaks volumes about that time between childhood and adolescence, of making sense of who you are, made more poignant when the family has arguments each night, as the boy and his brothers sleep in one room, and their seven sisters sleep in the other. When the boy goes to the lake to fish with his father, he learns to kill a turtle, calling on the strength of the frog to help him, and when walking past Sharyn, he needs the help of the frog to say hello. Meme McDonald filled the story with elements of the life lived by Boori Pryor and his family, the Kunggandji people: their culture, beliefs and lifestyle making this tale an absolute treat. Snippets of a young boy's life being taught the culture of his people, of making his way in the white world, of dealing with racism and learning to stand on his own feet, are seamlessly brought into the story, making the reader aware when they put the book down of how much they have learnt about one boy's Aboriginal childhood.
Short summaries at the end tell us how the book came to be written, and show the covers of other novels written by Boori Pryor. A must for every school library.
Fran Knight