This is a beautifully written and illustrated picture book which emphasises the importance of kindness, community and perseverance.
Bila the spoonbill is concerned when drought impacts the Yaba River community of waterbirds. Water has receded and the birds are unable to find food. Bila finds himself worrying about his mob and wondering what he can do to help them. He decides to visit the wise Bamali for advice. When Bamali suggests a rain dance, Bila is filled with hope and enthusiasm – but first he must call on the Council of Waterbirds for help. Here is he is advised that it takes a special bird to lead a water dance. This bird must have resilience and true belief. Will Bila have what it takes to lead a water dance and bring back the rain?
Young readers will quickly become engaged in this story of resilience and courage – waiting with anticipation to see if the water birds can bring on the rain and end the drought that has impacted the community. This book invites audience participation – young listeners may enjoy joining in the rain dance – stomping and flapping and calling for rain.
This book may also initiate conversation about drought and how it impacts our environment, the importance of community, having the courage to take initiative, working together to achieve results, and showing kindness and concern towards others.
There is a gentle flow to the narrative which slowly builds a sense of anticipation, making sure young listeners remain engaged with the story. The illustrations beautifully accompany this story, with eye-catching use of dot painting, and bright background colours. The use of colour throughout this book is significant – the brown earthy colours representing the dry land, and the cool blue colours symbolising water.
The final two page spread sparkles with fresh green colours, emphasising new life and growth, as the rains fall. The colours and the joyous dance of the birds exude exhilaration and hope.
This picture book would make a wonderful choice for group storytime.
Rebbeca Chapman is a proud Wiradjuri woman, who was born near the banks of the Murrumbidgee Bila (River). She spent her early years living on Country, before beginning a life of travel, living all over Australia and even the world.