As a parting gift—and to thank him for his valuable support—I gave an English teacher colleague with whom I worked last year an advance copy of Kumakana, A Gronups tale. A few weeks ago, while I was in London, he wrote to me and his email (minus the names to protect the innocent) is produced below …
[My daughter] and I read your novel Kumakana together in four sittings in a fabulous shared experience and we both agree it is a really engaging magical story and a wonderful work of art.
Judith’s book design and illustrations are simply amazing. [My daughter] loved the images of the Gronups and said she would love a set of Gronup figurines or small statues.
This opens up a merchandising avenue for you for the book. [She] also said that she would love to see the Gronups animated and so this opens up a filmic avenue for you for the book.
The book cover with the enormous tingle tree with a hollowed out bottom, representing a type of portal, and the absence of a front cover title add to the mystery of the book’s contents straight away.
The introduction was a good inclusion to acknowledge Indigenous Australians and for addressing cultural appropriation and for providing the context for the story and to outline the unique language used in the story.
The map at the front of the book is great to refer to during the story and to find your bearings and the word list and character list at the back are also very handy references for translations and animal names. The unique chapter designs with drop down capitals are also very eye-catching.
The story itself provides easy access through the diction and instant engagement through the action that draws the reader in immediately to its bush bewitchery.
The intertwined stories of the koolongers, animals and Gronups make the book a real page-turner that you don’t want to put down. Added to this are the historical, spiritual and environmental layers, which deepen the experience.
The language of the story shows off your masterful wordmanship as an author in so many ways and I would like to highlight some examples.
[My daughter] really loved the comical names of your animal characters and your use of teenage vernacular, colloquialisms and idioms that she could relate to. She also loved the dialogue of the talking animals and the songs you included. There were some words that she found challenging but these proved good teaching moments for me to expand her vocabulary. I really loved your use of alliteration and onomatopoeia, which gave the text a musicality. I also loved your use of metaphor and simile, which provide humorous comparisons and vivid descriptions. Finally, your use of allusion added depth to the story by drawing in other references.
We would both like to know if all the events in the story actually took place or whether the whole story was a combined dream for Lavender and Jerrramunga that started when they fell asleep in the big tree stump on page 40 then awoke later in the big tree stump on page 368?
This book has plenty of material for a second book in the series or a second film in the franchise. For example, a prequel story could be based on Lavender’s mum’s discovery of the mass graves of Tasmanian Devils in the Kumakana Forrest.
[My daughter] compared Kumakana to Little Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland, Narnia and The Hobbit and has declared Kumakana her new favourite book. I love the book as well and would like to see it placed on the SCASA recommended reading list for lower secondary students.
This book is uniquely Australian and is a winner and I can’t wait to attend the official launch in February.