Books & Literature

Book Review: The Cockatoo Wars, by Helen Milroy

PICTURE BOOK: In this fourth book in the “Tales from the Bush Mob” series, you will meet the cockatoo clans who are too busy fighting to notice when a huge fire breaks out.

An Australian animal story about family, getting along and working together suitable for any school library.

Feature image credit: Magabala Books

Dr Helen Milroy is a storyteller and artist. She is a descendent of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia but was born and educated in Perth. She is the 2021 Western Australian of the Year and joint winner of the 2020 Australian Mental Health Prize. She is also recognised as the first Indigenous Australian to become a medical doctor, and as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, has worked in many different roles. Helen Milroy comes from a long line of storytellers, including her sisters Sally Morgan and Jill Milroy, and her niece Ambelin Kwaymullina.

The Cockatoo Wars is the fourth book in the series Tales From the Bush Mob, about a group of animals that work together to solve problems, the first being Willy-Willy Wagtail.

At the front of the book, we are introduced to the birds and animals who live in Outback Australia: The Bush Mob. In this story we meet the black and white cockatoo clans who live at the edge of an ancient rain forest. The two clans have been fighting for as long as they can remember. They have been arguing about whose job it is to look after the forest, as they both know it was the beginning of creation and held within it great knowledge, stories and healing. But instead of looking after it, they have spent their time arguing. Until one day there is a fire which threatens the whole rainforest and everyone has to work together to save it.

The Cockatoo Wars follows the same format as the previous three books in that it is both a picture book and a chapter book. The slightly longer text is once again divided into three chapters plus an epilogue. This allows the reader to enjoy the pictures along the way, but also have a sense of reading a book for older readers with the ability to stop and pick up the story at a later date.

The beautiful front cover illustration gives the reader an idea of what is to come with the two arguing cockatoos and the bright orange sky. The frontispiece has a map of the area, also showing where all the bush mob live.

The illustrations are brightly coloured with dot circles quietly holding a place in the background. They remind us that the story is emphasising the respect the First Nations people have for culture and country.

The themes around the importance of family, getting along and working together, and looking after our rainforests are evident throughout the story. It is also about the wisdom that is passed down through the generations. The Cockatoo Wars is suitable for ages five to 10 and would make a lovely addition to any school library with lots of discussion points for the parent or teacher. There are also comprehensive teacher notes linked to the Australian Curriculum available from the Magabala Books website.  

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Magabala Books
Released: February 2023
RRP: $24.99

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