Title: Welcome to Country
Author: Joy Murphy
Illustrator: Lisa Kennedy
Publisher: Black Dog Books, Imprint of Walker Books
RRP: $24.99

This is Aunty Joy Murphy’s welcome to the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri People. After acknowledging elders and communities across the land and neighbouring islands, the book goes on to explain the origins of the Wurundjeri People and the creator, Bunjil the eagle. The welcome is accompanied with exquisite illustrations by Lisa Kennedy, a descendant of the Trawlwoolway People on the north-east coast of Tasmania.

This beautiful picture book is, well, very welcoming. It is not only the title and context of the story that makes it so, but the combination of the verbal and visual texts. The full, borderlees, brightly coloured double page illustrations make it welcoming. The illustrations are an absolute delight and I am sill entranced with every page turn after multiple readings. The verbal text is soothing and amiable, explaining while not dictating the Welcome to Country of the Wurundjeri People and its meaning. Although this is from the Wurundjeri, the importance of Welcome to Country across the tribal lands is obvious.

The end papers are a pattern motif repeated throughout the book, the meaning becoming clear as the book proceeds. Lisa Kennedy has effectively used line and colour to influence the feel of the narrative. The blend of earthy and bright colours is exquisite while the traditional illustration methods of dots and lines are used to effect. The acrylic paint on canvas, while sometimes thick with evident brush stokes, contributes to the richness of the illustrations.

The mood of this book reminds me of when I lived in Lightning Ridge, where indigenous and non-indigenous residents worked, played and lived together, often celebrating the Indigenous culture of the area as one. For this book to have that effect shows its importance.

This is an invaluable picture book for schools and all libraries. If you are looking for a gift for a family or friend in another country, then this is perfect.

A variety of teaching resources can be found here, including comprehensive teaching notes.

Thank you to Maryann Ballantyne from Black Dog Books, imprint of Walker Books, for supplying this book for review.