When Yvonne Cowling received a phone call on the 9th of December 1989, little did she know that that date would mark the beginning of an extraordinary journey, that she would form a remarkable relationship which would last for almost twenty-three years – and that she and a whole community would be heart-broken when that exceptional sojourn came to an end. The phone call was from the Melbourne Zoo and the culprit who stole Yvonne’s heart was a Tawny Frogmouth. Mordrid – as she would come to be known – wormed her way into the hearts of all who met her, including those of the children in and around the Knox Council, where she would accompany Yvonne – affectionately known as Boronia’s ‘Possum Lady’ – on her Wildlife Education Program school visits.
Lucienne Noontil has created a moving account of Mordrid’s life with Yvonne at the Boronia Wildlife Shelter. Written in rhyming verse in a gambit to appeal to the young child, the book recounts the demise of Mordrid’s life in the wild after an accident leaves her without sight and the remarkable way in which she adapts to her disability. The story relates the incorrigible way in which Mordrid insinuates herself into the life of her new family, watching television with them in the evenings and enjoying cuddles and pats from anyone who would oblige.
The illustrations in this book, watercolours – unframed and presented from a variety of perspectives – are spacious and uncluttered; they undergird the text, advancing the story and enhancing characterisation, positioning the child reader to care for Mordrid and to gain an appreciation for the affection of her expanding family unit. The double-page spread of Mordrid with her ‘surrogate’ chicks is especially striking. The closure is handled well with appropriate sensitivity for the young target audience.
Mordrid is a gentle book that commemorates the life of a very special bird.
Sunrise Reflections, 2013