Publisher: Magabala Books
Published: August 2023
Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler’s latest novel for young readers, Dirrarn, is a sequel to Black Cockatoo. Whereas Black Cockatoo focuses on Mia’s life in remote Australia, surrounded by her family and friends, Dirrarn sees Mia leave her country for boarding school in the city. There, she is not only a long way from home and everything familiar to her, but she must deal with new challenges.
Readers will find Mia to be a relatable protagonist and identify with the conflicts she becomes involved in. Although not everyone has experienced boarding school, many will remember being new at school, suffering homesickness or facing bullies: a storyline that felt particularly realistic to one young reviewer.
A glossary at the end of the book enables readers to learn several Jaru, Kriol, Noongar and Aboriginal English words. For example, dirrarn—the title of the book—is the Jaru word for black cockatoo, which is Mia’s totem.
While Dirrarn references the earlier story about Mia in Black Cockatoo, readers can enjoy one without the other, although both come highly recommended. Carl Merrison and Hakea Hustler hope books like Black Cockatoo and Dirrarn will ‘show First Nations children that their stories are worth being written and read’. Compact at just over 100 pages, this story about stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing a life of possibilities will appeal to upper-primary and lower-secondary students of all reading abilities.