YOU AND ME MURRAWEE
by Kerri Hashmi, illustrated by Felicity Marshall - Penguin Books Australia, 1999.
ages 2 to grown-up / diversity, s.o.s.e.
Some stories have a profound message – one that everyone needs to hear more than once – one that is just as relevant to a toddler as it is to the toddler’s grandpa. This is You and Me Murrawee.
The story is told as the musings of a young girl – maybe 10 or 12 years old – who has a gift for seeing what is no longer present.
The girl is on a family camping trip in the Australian bush and, as she plays and paddles and watches her family, she senses the life of an indigenous girl, 200 years ago, doing many of the same things she is doing.
She calls the girl Murrawee which is the Ngarrindjeri people’s word for elder sister.
There’s nothing of the supernatural in this book – just the careful imaginings of a girl who is sensitive to her environment and to the blessings of living in Australia.
The children – the girl and Murrawee – run past ancient rocks, they paddle in the same river, they watch their fathers teaching their brothers, they eat dinner with their families and sleep on the same river bank.
There’s a lovely connection between a modern child and a girl who walked that path before. There’s also an awareness of inheritance and responsibility.
It’s hard for an author and illustrator to give value to two distinct lifestyles at the same time, but that’s what this book does - and that is its profound message:
That both lifestyles are valuable, both are joyful and loving, both are interesting.
That there is tremendous intersection in the things all people ultimately value – family, time, nature, room to grow.
Although this would be a great book for 3 to 6-year-olds (the time that children generally start noticing race and often start stereotyping as they try to create order in their world), it's not really about race. It’s more about culture and heritage and particularly about the intersection of different cultures.
Read aloud, You and Me Murrawee calls for soft tones, quiet times and pondering – it’s a lovely one to read after a busy day. And you’ll probably be left with a hankering to go camping as well as an overwhelming sense of privilege if you live in Australia.