Black Cockatoo was an immediate cover buy for me as soon as I saw it long listed for the CBCA Awards earlier in the year. I'm not having my best reading year and I think that this is the only book I've read from the longlist, and I didn't even make my usual post about all the long listed books. Now it's Book Week and the winners will be announced tomorrow.
Black Cockatoo tells the story of Mia, a thirteen year old girl living with her extended family in a remote Kimberley town. I really wasn't expecting the brutal start.
The hit came hard, sending the young dirrarn black cockatoo reeling from his roost in the large gum tree. The boy approached cautiously, shanghai dangling from his hand, to inspect his catch. The dirrarn lay sprawled amongst the smaller birds he'd been using as target practice.The boy is Mia's older brother. Jy is 15, and loosing his way as many teenage boys do, he's not respecting his elders, or his country. He's killing birds for fun, not going to school. Mia rescues the bird and looks after it in her room.
Mia let her mind wander to all the places she had dreamt of seeing. No one in her family had ever left the west coast, let alone travelled over oceans. In days past there was no need to, the family had everything they needed on their country. She imagined soaring high above the coastline, red cliffs below, as the waves crashed onto golden shores- even in her imagination she could not fly out over the waves.I don't think that I've ever read a book set in a remote Western Australian town like this one. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book. I've never even travelled to that area, these are stories and lives I've never encountered. I enjoyed learning more about Aboriginal family constructs. I knew that elder women would be called aunty, and men uncle, and that family is a very inclusive term. But I'd never heard of cousin-sisters and cousin-brothers before.
I enjoyed the themes of family, country, tradition and freedom. Of course with any story like this the Stolen Generation is never far away.
Jawiji had met Mia's jaja on the station when they were teenagers. Her family had been rounded up and forced to live there. Jaja rarely talked about the little sister her family had lost when the government and police rounded up the lighter-skinned kids. One the rare occasion she did, the pain was raw in her words and plain across her face.Black Cockatoo is as beautiful inside as it is out. Each chapter has a stunning full page illustration by Dub Leffler- an illustrator that I need to see more from. There is a sprinkling of Jaru and Aboriginal English/Kriol words throughout the text as you can see in my quotes, and they have supplied a glossary at the end (although I aways think these should be at the front). I've read a couple of books from Magabala Books now, they're always impressive, and well worth seeking out.