Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Warrambi - Aleesah Darlison and Andrew Plant

When tiny Warambi, a little bent-wing bat, makes her entrance into the world, she is no bigger than a bean. Even when she is fully-grown, she will still only measure up to a tiny forty-five centimetres. So when Warambi is a pup, just able to fly, still having hunting lessons from her mum, it is no wonder she is so afraid when the earth shakes and her cave is ripped apart by monster machines. Her colony fly around in panic, and in the confusion, poor Warambi becomes separated from her mother.
This is a delightful picture story book for children of lower primary school age. Based on a true story, the text is gentle and moving but does not shy away from drawing the reader’s attention to the violence involved in destroying the habitat of the little bent-wing bat, or Miniopterus australis. The symbolism of juxtaposing this tiny species of bat with the enormous earth-moving machines is powerful and clever. The language of Warambi is warm and sumptuous, lending itself to being read aloud, with its subtle rhythms and use of alliteration, consonance and assonance: The terrified pups and their mothers squeaked and squealed and whirred and wheeled about.
Andrew Plant’s illustrations, painted in acrylic, are striking and sit well with the text; they highlight the themes of the book – belonging, threat, compassion, conservation of natural habitats and the preservation of native species.
Published in the Year of the Bat, as declared by the United Nations, Warambi – the word for ‘bat’ in the language of the Dharawal people – is a touching story that children will relate to. Engaging and informative – the end papers contain an array of interesting facts about the little bent-wing bat, which helps to make the story all the more poignant – Warambi will help to raise awareness about the plight of many of Australia’s native flora and fauna.
A captivating read. Recommended.
Working Title Press 2011
(A version of this review appears in Magpies Vol 26, Issue 3, July 2011)

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