Picture books are an important part of my reading time and many old and new picture books grace my shelves. There is an abundance of talent in the Australian picture book scene including this wonderful story by Jasmine Seymour, Open your heart to Country, published by Magabala Books.
Jasmine is the award-winning author of Baby Business (2019) and Cooee Mittigar (2019) and has created this beautiful bilingual story of healing and belonging. I heard her speak at the recent Children’s Book Council of Australia conference about the development of the book and was immediately connected to the story through Jasmine’s words and pictures.
‘Welcome home lost children
To land singing you back home
Listen to its language
Learn how to speak its song’
Told in English and Dharug, Open Your Heart to Country is a moving account of re-connection to Country from a First Nations perspective. Sharing the nourishing power of returning home and being immersed in the language of Country, this picture book invites readers to reflect on the importance of place, not only for First Nations’ peoples but for everyone.
As I read the lyrical text, I was transported to my own experiences of Country and the places I hold deep inside of me. The illustrations are spellbinding; rich in colour, movement and story, dancing off the page and working intimately with the text.
As a white person, I enjoyed the chance to learn some Dharug Language and connect these words to place and imagery. As I read the words aloud to myself, there was a musicality that created a moving love song to Country. It reminded me why I stop and hold my cheek against particular trees when I walk, why I yearn for certain beaches, forests and mountains, why I look to the stars.
Dharug language has been spoken by people who live across the Sydney Basin for thousands of years. There are notes at the end of the book that explain some of the basics of Dharug language and how to pronounce the words. With illustrations that are works of art and gentle, lyrical text, Open Your Heart to Country is perfect for readers of all ages and is highly recommended for everyone – you need this book in your life.
Available as a Hardcover book at all good bookstores and more here at Magabala Books