The cover of The River by Sally Morgan and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr.

Title: The River
Author: Sally Morgan
Illustrator: Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Publisher: Magabala Books
Published: August 2021

Sally Morgan and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr’s new children’s picture book The River is a wonderful new addition to the award-winning array of texts published by Magabala books. The River is a visual journey that encourages children to describe and think about what they hear and see when looking at wildlife and nature. The combination of beautiful illustrations by Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr and the guiding and encouraging words from Sally Morgan throughout makes this picture book a fantastic learning tool that will be sure to engage all young children.

The River is expertly illustrated by Yolŋu man — Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr, from the Ganalbingu clan — in a colour palette of sky blue, shades of brown, and ochres. There is a consistent style throughout, which draws the reader from one page to the next. Every illustration is full of life, and I found the patterns and colours incredibly captivating. The river itself is depicted as a lively and abundant life source where many animals can be found. Some animals may be more familiar than others to the target audience, but that isn’t a drawback; rather, it encourages the learning of Indigenous wildlife beyond the conventional ‘farm animal’ or ‘zoo animal’ books.

Sally Morgan’s writing seeks to create a back-and-forth verbal exercise between adult and child. The River would be a great book to read aloud to young kindy-aged children who are learning about their senses like seeing and hearing, as well as learning to identify animals and the sounds and movements they make. 

“I love the river near my home. I look with my eyes, I listen with my ears, I learn about the life of the river.”

Each double-page spread depicts a different animal or insect and prompts the reader to articulate what they can either see or hear. The River is an excellent educational tool that supports a child’s early learning. If you loved Sally Morgan and Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr’s previous collaboration Little Bird’s Day, then make sure you buy a copy of The River!

Underground Team

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