The Heartbeat of the Land
Cathy Freeman, Coral Vass
Larrikin House, 2022
5-8yrs, Lower Primary, Primary
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English, Kuku Yalanji Y78
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- Environmental degradation
- Environmental education
- Environmental protection
- Glossaries and vocabularies
Cathy Freeman is a proud Kuku Yalanji woman. She is also an Australian Indigenous Olympic champion. In ‘The Heartbeat of the Land’, this much-admired athlete runs barefoot across the ‘great ancient land as her people had done for 60,000 years before’. She is accompanied by the White Cockatoo, which is her Aboriginal spiritual totem inherited by members of her family that defines their relationship with each other and creation.
The story is told from Cathy Freeman’s perspective as a child. As she runs, she can hear the ‘heartbeat of the land’, but one day all is quiet. The ‘rocks cried out, the sky groaned and the mountains wailed’. When Cathy asks why, the answer given is that the ‘land is sick with the earth too hot, trees disappearing and water sources drying up’. Cathy immediately begins gathering seeds and spreading these as she runs across the country. People she meets are puzzled and ask what she is doing, and she encourages them to plant seeds. Initially too preoccupied to help, people soon began to hear the ‘cry of the land’ and work together to plant seeds.
The striking, Australian landscape colours and scenes fill each double page with textured brush strokes and shading that evokes a strong sense of place. Many words from the Kuku Yalanji language, that of Cathy’s people, are included with a glossary and pronunciation guide included at the end of the book. Kuku Yalanji country is in Far North Queensland in and around the Daintree.
This is a story showing what humans can do for their environment, here also beautifully captured in the endpapers. The opening endpapers show a range of seeds and pods, and the final endpapers reveal Australian flora in sumptuous colour. Harricks’ artwork brings alive many Australian vistas from the mountains and rivers and coastal regions to the towns and cities. Look closely and the degradation of the land and its causes is there to see. There is a sense of overwhelming optimism reflected in the concluding pictures where Cathy’s mission is bearing fruit.
- Larrikin House Teacher’s Resources for ‘The Heartbeat of the Land’ https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0604/5368/3441/files/The_Heartbeat_of_the_Land_-_Teacher_Notes.pdf?v=1656672754
- Scholastic Teaching Notes for ‘The Heartbeat of the Land’ https://resource.scholastic.com.au/ResourceFiles/100101362_105953.pdf
- ReadPlus review 18 Nov 2022 by Fran Knight of ‘The Heartbeat of the Land’ https://www.readplus.com.au/reviews/the-heartbeat-of-the-land
- Reading Time 23 Nov 2022 review by Kevin Brophy of ‘The Heartbeat of the Land’ https://readingtime.com.au/the-heartbeat-of-the-land/
- Kids’ Book Review 7 Dec 2022 review by Dimity Powell of ‘The Heartbeat of the Land’ http://www.kids-bookreview.com/2022/12/review-heartbeat-of-land.html
- AIATSIS profile of Cathy Freeman with related information https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/cathy-freeman
- Coral Vass author website https://www.coralvass.com/about
- Kids’ Book Review 10 Sept 2020 ‘Meet the illustrator Tannya Harricks’ http://www.kids-bookreview.com/2020/09/meet-illustrator-tannya-harricks.html
- Westwords ‘Illustration workshop with Tannya Harricks — how to draw a kookaburra’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wA2nwfropnA
- Art2Muse Gallery Tannya Harricks: In the studio with Art2Muse Gallery https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZz_KaaCLUI