Winner of the 1979 Children's Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year, The Quinkins is one of several remarkable picture books by collaborators, artist Dick Roughsey, from the Lardil language group on Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland, and Percy Trezise, that were some of the first to introduce Aboriginal culture to Australian children.
Set in Cape York country, the story tells of the Yalanji people and their striking open cave paintings documenting and honouring their ancestral beings, sacred animals and the Quinkins, the spirit people of the land, consisting of two groups, the Imjim, small fat-bellied bad fellows who stole children, and the tall, treelike Timara, humorous and whimsical tricksters. One afternoon, Moonbi and his sister, Leealin, go in search of their father after hearing his voice, not suspecting that they are being lured out into the bush by an Imjim. Also standing in the shadows, however, is the towering Timara, watching on and determined to save the children from their fate. Sweeping across double-page spreads, richly coloured detailed oil paintings reveal stunning vistas of country, as the children pass giant ant nests, confront snakes and hunt tortoises in a waterlily covered lagoon, always under the menacing gaze of the Imjim’s red glowing eyes. The children narrowly escape, as a fierce battle takes place between the Imjim and Timara, returning safely home to eat roast emu and yams and promising never to wander alone again.