Cover image of Beneath the Stars by Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Title: Beneath the Stars [My Country, We All Sleep, and Dreamers]
Author Ezekiel Kwaymullina
Illustrator: Sally Morgan
Publication: 2021
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Genre: Children’s board books, ages 0-2

Beneath the Stars box set
Beneath the Stars box set

Beneath the Stars (2021) is a beautiful slipcase collection of children’s book­ by mother-and son-duo Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina. Morgan and Kwaymullina are from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It features three board books in a beautiful slipcase ready to gift to an expecting family: Dreamers (2014), We All Sleep (2015), and My Country (2011). Each book feels comfortable to hold and easy to move from page to page ­– perfect for little ones to hold themselves and be read to.

Beneath the Stars is a perfect collection to introduce young children to reading before starting at school. Each of the board books are brightly coloured and has highly visible and easy-to-read text. All of the books are written by Ezekiel Kwaymullina and illustrated by Sally Morgan. The combination of Kwaymullina and Morgan’s talents make for a visually stunning collection. I believe that the engaging writing from Kwaymullina coupled with the brightly coloured and patterned pages will be sure to keep children engaged.

Dreamers explores the identity of children through non-complex sentences and captivating illustrations. The board book begins with “We are the dream and the dreamers” and continues with wonderful lines of who the children are: “the stone chanters and the wind climbers”, “the thunder chasers and the lightning catchers”, “the music painters and the sand tellers”, and finishes with “we are children wild and hope bright”.  All the illustrated children are joyous, and the imaginative visual storytelling by Morgan perfectly complements Kwaymullina’s writing. Dreamers is a lovely read thathighlights the magic of childhood and children themselves, making it a great book to instil confidence in young readers.

We All Sleep follows a child as they learn where different native Australian animals live – from magpies singing from “brown branches”, goannas hiding “on purple hills”, snakes slithering “down rocky ridges”, to a dingo howling “by golden light”. The places that these animals inhabit are amazingly illustrated by Morgan and creatively described by Kwaymullina. Children will be engaged by each page until the end: “beneath the stars we all sleep.” A great little part about this book is that the next animal is hiding on the current page, giving a fun little guessing element to the narrative. Hence We All Sleep has the ability to be engaging again and again and again. We All Sleep is a brilliant children’s book that I am sure many young children will enjoy.

My Country shares the story of a young child and their connection to their Country. The young child says that in their country they “play with the Morning Star”, “sings the earth’s song”, “splash with the bush animals”, and many other activities until they “sleep among the ghost gums” and “dream about [their] friends”. The book finishes with a portrait of the child and they say “I love my country”. The narrative is a beautiful celebration of a child’s life and what activities connect them to their Country and in turn how they love their Country. Kwaymullina’s narrative is coupled with Morgan’s charming illustrations of the child having fun and living in their wonderful Country. The child is accompanied by a friendly little red bird throughout their day of adventures who looks over the child as they sleep. My Country is a wonderful book for young children, especially First Nations children, who are represented in this book.

The collection Beneath the Stars is glorious and a beautiful selection of board books to keep or gift or pass along for young children to read. I love Kwaymullina and Morgan’s work and to see three of their books together is a delight. I highly recommend getting Beneath the Stars for the little ones in your life.

Underground Team
editors.underground.writers@gmail.com

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