Review: ‘Alfred’s War & ‘Benny Bungarra’s Big Bush Clean-Up’

Editor Kate Lomas Glendenning reviews two recent children’s book releases from Magabala Books.

Alfred’s War by Rachel Bin Salleh, illustrated by Samantha Fry

Alfred’s War is the stunning debut from Rachel Bin Salleh and Samantha Fry. The story follows Alfred, an Indigenous veteran who served in The Great War (now known as World War One), who now, as an old man, must find work where he can. Albert’s life during the war is shown in beautiful double page spread illustrations that give a glimpse into the brutality and destruction of war. Rather than writing about the trauma Alfred suffered, glimpses of the horror Alfred witnessed are illustrated in evocative dark colours. The post-traumatic stress disorder Alfred suffered from his time in the war is humanely shown through the revelation that some days he cannot get out of bed. Alfred represents numerous Indigenous servicemen who were not recognised for their service during the war: they are the forgotten soldiers. At the end of the book, a brief account is included of what happened to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans after the war. Facts such as only in recent years have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Veterans been acknowledged for their service and sacrifice. Alfred’s War is a striking book that leaves a haunting impression, and would be an engrossing read for children learning about Australian veterans.

Benny Bungarra’s Big Bush Clean-Up by Sally Morgan, illustrated by Ambelin Kwaymullina

Benny Bungarra’s Big Bush Clean-Up follows lizard, Benny Bungarra, as he helps his animal friends who are injured by litter in the bush. The book celebrates contemporary Aboriginal artwork through its colourful illustrations by artist Ambelin Kwaymullina. The vibrant illustrations aid Sally Morgan’s story of how littering can not only destroy the environment but the land’s inhabitants as well; the story also carries a strong message for children to be considerate of the environment. Morgan enforces the message by pointing out what people can do with their rubbish: recycle or throw away, and distinguishes between the items that can be recycled or cannot. This book is a fun read for young children, a great visual aid for helping children to understand why we don’t litter, and reveals the dire consequences littering can have on the native fauna.

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