Books & Literature

Book Review: The Sweetest Egg of All, by Helen Milroy

PICTURE BOOK: The Sweetest Egg of All follows Gecko, Thorny Devil and Scrubby Python, who admire Bungarra and want to find a special birthday present for their friend.

Some gentle lessons on kindness and friendship conveyed with a harmonious blend of artwork and storytelling.

Good intentions lead to drama for a mob of mates who get caught up in trouble unexpectedly.

The Sweetest Egg of All, by Australian author and artist Helen Milroy, is the third publication in Magabala Books’ Tales from the Bush Mob series. The other titles are Willy-Willy Wagtail and The Emu Who Ran Through the Sky. Helen Milroy is a descendent of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and an advocate for children’s wellbeing and mental health. She has been recognised for her work with young people, as the WA State recipient Australian of the Year and joint winner of the 2020 Australian Mental Health Prize.

The Tales from the Bush Mob series features a group of birds and animals teaming up to solve problems, helping each other during adventures in the outback. The opening pages of The Sweetest Egg of All introduce the reader to the characters with a small, named picture of each. What follows is a complicated tale, but it’s divided into three key parts, which is a helpful way of anchoring the reader in the action. A brief epilogue reminds us of the central message of the story.

We meet Bungarra, the “big lizard” with a birthday approaching. He’s much admired by Gecko and Thorny Devil who ask around to gather ideas for the perfect gift for their friend. When King George Brown, a snake with ulterior motives, suggests they steal Willy Wagtail’s egg, the plotting starts in a quest to obtain “the sweetest egg of all”. It’s not going to be easy! There’s a distraction to orchestrate (getting to the egg without being seen is going to tricky) and a mobile nest contraption to be constructed (safe transport is needed for the precious prize). As the plans proceed, more friends become involved. Scrubby Python, King Toad and Dingo all play a part in a tale with twists and turns and some shady behaviour and a few important lessons to be learned.

The digital illustrations in this 72-page paperback are beautiful—rich in the colours of the Australian bush landscape with hidden details and patterns underscoring the main events. The images are particularly successful at depicting the connections between the creatures’ habitats, with action happening at all levels between the treetops and underground caves.

The Bush Mob books aim to “emphasise the value of respect for First Nations culture and country, as well as the importance of courage, perseverance and wisdom to bind communities together”. This message shines through clearly in the antics of Bungarra and his loyal friends. It’s a fun read for families.

Reviewed by Jo Vabolis
Twitter: @JoVabolis

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Magabala Books
Released: February 2022
RRP: $22.99

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