'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 20 March 2015

Review: The Girl from the Great Sandy Desert

Jukuna Mona Chuguna was a Walmajarri woman from the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia. Together with her husband, she lived and worked on cattle and sheep stations during the 1950s before becoming a highly regarded artist. She passed away in 2011.

Pat Lowe is an Englishwoman who settled in Western Australia and who, for a time, lived in a desert camp with some of Jukuna's family. Later, when Jukuna and Pat both found themselves in Broome, they embarked on recording Jukuna's stories of indigenous life in the desert. The result is this fascinating collection of semi-autobiographical stories.

These are stories that capture a time before European settlement dramatically changed the traditional way of life. They are therefore a valuable social and cultural record. Beyond this, however, they are also entertaining stories of a little girl, Mana, growing up with her brothers, sisters and cousins. The harshness of the landscape, the importance of water, how hunting was carried out, the complexity of family relationships and the obligations of kinship — these and more are all recounted in a way that will engage children.

Each story is accompanied by fact boxes explaining cultural terms or practices, as well as beautiful black and white illustrations by acclaimed Gooniyandi artist Mervyn Street.

Title: The Girl from the Great Sandy Desert
Authors: Jukuna Mona Chuguna and Pat Lowe
Illustrator: Mervyn Street
Publisher: Magabala Books, $16.95 RRP
Publication Date: February 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781922142054
For ages: 10+
Type: Middle Fiction