Lily’s Mum was pregnant with her before she left Melbourne to live in New Zealand so Lily‘s heart will always have two homes.
“We will always be a little bit Australian and a little bit Kiwi,” her Mum would say. Then she would smile and add,” If I could, I would build a bridge between our two homes.”
Lily wondered if somewhere there might already be a bridge arcing like a rainbow between the two places she loves the most. So she set off on a little adventure accompanied by Woof, her furry best friend, to see if she could find it.
On the way she tried to imagine what this magical bridge might look like. Would there be marmite or vegemite, kookaburras or tui, kiwi or koalas?
At the bottom of their backyard stood a little brown bridge. Could this be it? As they stepped onto it Lily used the power of her imagination and it really did become the magic bridge to Australia.
Before them danced all her favourite things that make Australia and New Zealand so special to her, all the sights she has loved showing to her Australian friends when they have come over to visit, and those she was taken to see in Australia. Laura Bernard’s whimsical illustrations bring these places to life. It is like a miniature geography lesson.
Then Woof smells something delicious. He takes off and races back home. Lily runs after him as fast as she can and finds her smiling Mum waiting to hand her a plate of delicious food cooked on the barbecue, kiwi sausies and aussie prawns, her favourite.
Sarah Milne’s magical Picture Book Kiwis and Koalas will resonate with all those who are experiencing the heartache of being separated from overseas family and friends and is especially relevant right now because of the global pandemic. It shows them that home is never far away when you feel it in your heart and how sweet memories can help to alleviate the heartache.
Kiwis and Koalas is a special book for another reason. Lily is a normal, happy, adventurous little girl. It is easy to overlook on a first reading that she is wearing hearing aids and occasionally uses her hands to sign. Her disability is never mentioned in the text.
Authors of children’s picture books are including children who are hearing impaired like Lily, or have other disabilities more often these days, focusing on what they can do and so dispelling negative stereotypes.
Every child deserves to be in a picture book. It makes them feel included and that they matter. And it helps other children to build a positive understanding of those with disabilities. I really like the way in which Sarah Milne has done this in such a subtle and natural way.
Reviewer: Lyn Potter
Little Love - Mary Egan Publishing