Review: Bindi by Kirli Saunders
Bindi by Kirli Saunders, illustrated by Dub Leffler
Published by Magabala Books
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Meet 11-year-old Bindi. She’s not really into maths but LOVES art class and playing hockey. Her absolute FAVOURITE thing is adventuring outside with friends or her horse, Nell.
A new year starts like normal—school, family, hockey, dancing. But this year hasn’t gone to plan! There’s a big art assignment, a drought, a broken wrist AND the biggest bushfires her town has ever seen!
Bindi is a verse novel for mid-upper primary students. Written ‘for those who plant trees’, Bindi explores climate, bushfires, and healing. Written from the point of view of 11-year-old, Bindi and her friends on Gundungurra Country.
Bindi by Kirli Saunders is a gentle children’s story in verse, adorned with illustrations by Dub Leffler. It’s a gorgeously designed book, in hardcover, with Leffler’s illustrations displayed throughout the book as well as on the cover and end pages. The feeling of the illustrations fits perfectly with Saunders’ poetry and ties the book together as both a beautiful object and story.
I was very excited about this book, partly because I already really love Kirli Saunders' poetry and partly because I feel very strongly that there should be more verse novels for children. It’s a format I adore and I think people underestimate children’s potential to enjoy poetry.
Bindi is told through verses that seamlessly incorporate Gundungurra words. It is very easy to follow, and I hope more publishers are willing to refrain from filling pages with footnotes or parentheses. The glossary at the back ensures you’ve correctly understood, but the meaning is easy to pick up from context.
The writing is simple and evocative. It interweaves country and land into Bindi’s everyday life (maths, playing with friends, eating dinner with her family). I loved the way she described herself as ‘an empath of the land’, and how this idea was illustrated through the story. I also liked the clear sense of Bindi’s strong relationships and community through her regular interactions with those around her, particularly her parents. I loved how matter of fact Bindi was about her fantastic parents, despite the sense she understood how lucky she was.
Through Saunders’ words you feel the heat of summer, see the dry, cracked earth and smell the smoke in the distance. The devastation of the bushfire is not minimised; it is scary and heart-breaking and Bindi feels it. However, there is a strong thread of hope woven through the story. In particular, hope offered through the move towards Indigenous-led conservation and land management practices, and also through the resilience of the community who come together in the wake of disaster.
I recommend Bindi to anyone who likes verse novels, or beautiful children’s stories, and particularly for kids (about 7+) who care about the environment.
Kirli Saunders is a proud Gunai Woman and award-winning international writer of poetry, plays and picture books. She is a teacher, cultural consultant and artist. In 2020, Kirli was named the NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year.
You can find her online via her website or Instagram.
Descendent from the Bigambul people of South-West Queensland, Dub Leffler is one of Australia’s most sought-after illustrators of children’s literature. As well as an illustrator, Dub is the author of two children’s books and is currently illustrating his 25th title. Dub’s work has afforded him travel to places such as remote Australia, Europe, Indonesia and America, and his illustrations are in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
You can follow him on Instagram.