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Reviewed by Rosie Malezer for Readers' Favorite
Walpajirri: The Legend of an Easter Bilby is a wonderful, educational Dreamtime-style narrative written by M.E. Skeel. The history of the animals of Australia (as well as the Indigenous peoples) is discussed before the introduction of Jinda and Jirri – two bilbies which make up the story of Walpajirri. Jinda is Jirri’s mother. For the first year of Jirri’s life, he is protected by his mother and shown how to survive. Jinda makes Jirri aware of the dangerous animals, noxious plants, and survival techniques in extreme natural disasters such as firestorms. When Jirri is a yearling, Jinda leaves the burrow for some time, returning as hostile before evicting Jirri from the burrow. Jirri is big enough to survive on his own and Jinda is again pregnant.
Jirri wanders thousands of kilometers and has many adventures with other animals. He also experiences his first flood and learns how much he does not like it when land becomes water. One day (during an Easter egg hunt), Jirri happens upon some eggs. As the teachers and the children watch silently, Jirri tastes one of the eggs inside the foil before leaving again. Thus, the legend of the Easter Bilby is born. As the bilby is native to Australia, it is used in lieu of an Easter Bunny, as rabbits are an introduced pest which destroy much of the habitat that native fauna rely on to survive.
As an Indigenous Australian, I was so very proud to read this book for review. Many facts about the bilby were discussed in great detail, as well as the legend that has become Australia’s very own Easter Bilby. The tale of Walpajirri: The Legend of an Easter Bilby was wonderfully written, accompanied by brilliantly drawn illustrations to help show what some of Australia’s different native animals look like. Although Jirri is a bilby, he was portrayed almost human-like, showing readers that animals feel emotion too. M.E. Skeel’s literary style allowed me to see the world through Jirri’s eyes, feeling his joy, sorrow, and pain. I recommend this book to readers of all ages, should they wish to learn about Australia’s animals, customs, flora and fauna.