Tracker Tjugingji and his family live in the Australian bush, camping in a little windbreak shelter. His parents announce plans to go to a big lake, a long way east. They warn their son not to play too late tonight, as they would be leaving early in the morning. Tracker did not listen to his parents. They woke early for their trip and commented, ‘Oh well, let’s leave him. He can catch up later.’ The text comments, ‘That’s the Aboriginal way – you don’t wake your children when they are fast asleep.’ Tracker is not worried as he follows their tracks as he has been taught to do, including those of the family dog. Along the way Tracker meets up with different animals, each complaining that Tracker’s family, especially the dog, disturbed their sleep and activities.
Tracker meets various animals along the way to catch up with his parents. Each animal is given an Aboriginal name, presumably Pitjantjatjara (the author’s language) and the reader is advised how to pronounce these words phonetically. Tracker meets a snake (kuniya) up a tree, a perentie or lizard (ngintaka) down a hole, a kangaroo (malu) lounging beside a tree, a dingo drinking and an emu (kalaya) with two little emu chicks. Tracker is by now very tired. The kindly emu offers him a ride to the lake where his parents are there waiting! All the animals Tracker had met appear as they all followed to be sure he found his parents. There is a big celebration with dancing, playing games and singing ‘The Animal Song’ together.
The illustrations by Kunyi June-Anne McInerney capture the animal characters’ personalities, each one slightly irritated by the boy and his family interrupting their daily lives. The pace of the story lures the reader on wondering who will Tracker meet next and what they will say? The illustrations also convey the red landscape and the dark blue sky.
Claire Bradford analyses this book and says of the language that ‘it combines Aboriginal English with Standard English, colloquial Australian usages, and parenthetical explanations ….’ ‘Tracker Tjugingji’ includes a CD featuring ‘The Animal Song’ with the lyrics by Bob Randall appearing in a shortened version at the back of the book.
Bob Randall is a Pitjantjatjara man from the Kings Canyon area of Central Australia. He was taken away from his family when he was eight or nine years old and sent to Minjala (Croker Island), far from his desert home off the north coast of Arnhem Land. He is a well-known storyteller and songwriter. The illustrator, Kunyi June-Anne McInerney, is of Yankunytjatjara descent and was born at Todmorden Station near Oodnadatta. She too was a member of the Stolen Generations.