Published by Magabala Books on 2010
Genres: picture book
The story of Mary, a young girl who lives on a dusty cattle station. When she is shunned by the other girls because of her fair skin, Old Ned, one of the community Elders, speaks up for her. With words of wisdom, he teaches the girls that Aboriginal identity transcends skin colour and that family, community, country, and culture is what being Aboriginal is really about.
There are so many reasons to be impressed by this picture book, not the least of which is that it was written and illustrated by a Year 12 student. I particularly enjoyed the way that the artwork complemented the story so well and the way the illustrations were so suited to make the story even more meaningful to the primary school-aged audience.
The story looks at the idea of racial intolerance from an interesting perspective, with the local indigenous children rejecting Mary because her skin and hair are fairer than theirs because her father is white.
I love that the emphasis is on character and connection ‘how you feel in your heart and soul’ rather than appearance. Mary feels a strong connection with the Koori traditions of her mother and Ned informs the other children that Mary is a fair skin black fella, that it is her heart not her skin that determines where she belongs.
This is a simple story with an obvious but important message. I have enjoyed reading it with my children and it has given us an opportunity to talk about lots of issues involving friendship and belonging.
The author, Renee Fogorty, is a descendant of the Wiradjuri people of central New South Wales.by