Author: Kirli Saunders
Illustrator: Dub Leffler
Published: November 2020
Publisher: Magabala Books
To read and consume the verse novel Bindi is a gift—especially for children who will get the opportunity to share and learn from its contents. Kirli Saunders has created a book that is accessible to older children, delightful to read, and powerful in its capacity to encapsulate the reality of bushfire damage on Australian communities within a children’s verse novel. Bindi follows the life of an eleven-year-old girl, Bindi, who lives on Gundungurra Country and witnesses the power and devastation that bushfires cause all while playing hockey and having fun with her friends and family. While Bindi tackles such a real and prominent topic for many Australians it is not an arduous text, but rather an opportunity to understand and learn from life-changing events.
What Bindi ensures is that after there is fire, there is hope for the future. I particularly enjoyed reading about the shared belonging that arises in a community in times of crisis. I believe that Saunders’ touches home for many readers in the creation of Bindi. The fires are a reminder of a reality that Australia witnessed not even twelve months ago. A reality that reappears each summer across the country.
like the houses
that many of us may not return to
But the verse novel isn’t doom-and-gloom—it is a possibility for change in our age of climate crisis. The three subtitles are: Seedlings, Cinders, and Sprouts—a clear and beautiful homage to the cycle of life, death, and rebirth that uncovers through bushfire damage. Along with the subtitles which emphasise the imagery of firecomes the beautiful charcoal drawings of Dub Leffler. The poetic language of Saunders coupled with Leffler’s illustrations makes for a visually stunning book. Three of the most significant drawings match with the subtitles to create a simplistic yet effective image of the same plant through the cycle of bushfire damage and rebirth. The devastation brought on by fire that children read in ‘Cinders’ flows naturally into ‘Sprouts’, which is where Saunders instills courage and agency into the children who read Bindi. Saunders herself hopes that the text will help children to “understand their responsibility in caring for Country and feeling equipped or more aware on how to do that.” The children who read this book are our country’s future leaders, and what a remarkable way to encourage a dialogue for children to learn about land, preservation, and the environment.
Another marker of the brilliance of Bindi is that it is written in both Gundungurra Language and English. This inclusion of both languages is fluid due to neither language being bracketed or footnoted. This is a deliberate choice by Saunders who is interested in “decolonising the publishing framework and understanding the right way to publish language.” The glossary at the back of the book is a learning tool for children to understand what each Gundungurra word means and how to properly pronounce it. Bindi is a safe and educational text which encourages learning of Language and caring for the environment for both First Nations children and non-First Nations children. I hope that all schools will include Bindi in their curriculum as it is a beautiful way to start a dialogue with children about caring for Australia during our climate change crisis and looking forward into the future for ways to prevent fires.