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Book Review: Bakir and Bi, by Jillian Boyd and Tori-Jay Mordey

Posted by Lisa Hill on April 15, 2013


Bakir and BiAnother book to add to our collection of indigenous materials at school!  Bakir and Bi by Jillian Boyd and Tori-Jay Mordey, is a small-sized hardback picture book, a little bit smaller than A5.  I mention the size because it so perfectly suits the intimate feel of this book, which is beautifully illustrated with line drawings, in sepia, teal, and black-and-white.

What’s so special about it to me, is that it’s the first story book that I’ve come across from the Torres Straits.   This is the blurb from the publisher’s website:

Bakir (rock) and Mar (storm bird) live on a remote island called Egur with their two young children. While fishing on the beach Bakir comes across a very special pelican (Bakir’s totem is a pelican) named Bi.   A famine occurs, and life on the island is no longer harmonious. One day Bakir and Bi disappear and Mar and the children are forced to make the journey to another island by canoe … and so begins the adventure.

Bakir and Bi is based on a Torres Strait Islander creation story, but aspects of it are rather dark, making it perhaps more suitable for older children.  In the beginning island life is lush and food is plentiful, but when the famine strikes families turn against each other.  The family has to hide Bi (their pelican) otherwise he would be eaten by the other islanders who are starving.  Bakir has already warned his family that they may need to leave the island one day, but when it is time for Bi (the pelican) to leave because he has outgrown his hideout, Bakir disappears along with the bird, leaving his family to fend for themselves.  They then have a perilous journey across the sea to a new island, and Lusik is almost lost at sea.  When they finally reach safety, they are not reunited with Bakir: he has become a rock to guide and watch over them instead.

I think that older children would enjoy discussing the supernatural elements of the story, but could also tease out the ideas behind Bakir following his destiny.  They could also explore the Kedawar tribe’s belief that a person grows to become their name: the children could find out the meaning of their own names and decide whether their names suit their personality or achievements.  (My own name means ‘devoted to God’ which is not particularly apt for a non-believer LOL!) And while the book shows people needing to find a new home because of famine, it could also be used to discuss the impact of global warming on island communities and what Australia’s role might be in offering a home to displaced communities as the water levels rise.

Born and raised on Thursday Island in the Torres Straits, Jillian Boyd was the winner of the 2012 State Library of Queensland black&write! Indigenous Writing Fellowship.  The illustrations by her niece, 18-year-old Tori-Jay Mordey are very impressive.  This young artist has a rare talent, especially for depicting facial expressions and emotion, and the colour scheme is gorgeous.

Authors: Jillian Boyd and Tori-Jay Mordey
Title: Bakir and Bi
Publisher: Magabala Books, 2013
ISBN: 9781921248863
Source: Review copy courtesy of Magabala Books
Availability

Fishpond: Bakir and Bi
Or direct from Magabala Books

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