Canberra Launches First Nations' Mother Kangaroo Picture Book

National Museum announces second in Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre children's book series

A First Nations story about how the iconic Australian kangaroo acquired her pouch is the subject of a delightful new children's book, How Mother Kangaroo Got Her Pouch by Wiradjuri and Gamilaroi woman, debut author and artist Rebecca Beetson, launched by the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Exploring diverse themes such as the importance of loving family relationships, connection to Country and the values of helping and kindness, the book is the second in a series of five picture books inspired by the Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre at the National Museum.

The story is illuminated through striking 3D collage-style illustrations by Paul Lalo of Melbourne-based animation boutique, Soymilk Studio. The drawings are by the same studio that developed the illustrations for the first book in the series, The Bunyip and the Stars by Adam Duncan.

The characters and animals found in both books feature in the Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre. The next in the five-book series, A Woolly Tale (about Chris the Sheep) by Jackie Hosking, will be released by the National Museum in September 2024, with books four and five being released in 2025.

The picture books support the National Museum's commitment to storytelling for visitors of all ages. They are designed to spark conversations around themes such as First Nations culture, place, identity and Australian history in age-appropriate and inspiring ways.

National Museum director Katherine McMahon thanked Rebecca Beetson for her imaginative storytelling and Paul Lalo for his wonderful illustrations.

'Rebecca has shown creativity and warmth with this book. I'd like to thank her for sharing her wisdom and insights which have brought to life some of the characters central to both First Nations storytelling and the Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre,' Ms McMahon said.

'The lovely illustrations are sure to stimulate the imaginations of young readers'.

A combination of ancient First Nations storytelling and exciting adventure tale, How Mother Kangaroo Got Her Pouch follows Bunda (Wiradjuri for Mother Kangaroo) and her energetic son, Baabay (Wiradjuri for Joey) as they help Old Wambad (Wiradjuri for Wombat) journey through Australia's diverse landscapes and evade hunters.

In return for this act of kindness, Bunda and Baabay receive an unexpected gift – a pouch – that will change their lives forever.

Author Rebecca Beetson said she first heard the story of how the kangaroo got her pouch at North Dubbo Public School. 'Many Aboriginal people visited us to teach us art and stories. I have remembered these stories since I was little and put them into my art that I do today,' Ms Beetson said.

'The kangaroo story was the one I heard most as a kid, I heard it from different Elders, so it was told to me many times. I love the Aboriginal words gently put into the story. I feel the kids are going to understand those words without them having to be explained to them'.

Illustrator Paul Lalo said he was thrilled to be asked to help animate the second story in the series.

'It was wonderful working with the National Museum on the illustrations for The Bunyip and the Stars and the stories at the Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre, so returning to illustrate the second book in the series made a lot of sense. I hope my illustrations capture the imagination of the reader and help them establish an emotive connection with the story,' Mr Lalo said.

Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre manager Carlie Walker said she was delighted to see the diverse themes and characters found in the space being featured in the book series.

'The books will build on the innovative narrative approach used in the Discovery Centre. Five unique Australian stories engage children and their carers during their visits to the Centre's play and learn space and the book series will extend this experience into homes and classrooms,' Ms Walker said.

How Mother Kangaroo Got Her Pouch is published by National Museum of Australia Press and is available in our Online Shop or in person from the Museum Shop.

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