Picture book creator Cheryl Kickett-Tucker is sharing her love of family and Noongar language in her latest book, Ninni Yabini

Ninni Yabini is a dual language picture book – in Noongar and English – by Cheryl Kickett-Tucker and Tyrown Waigana. We asked Cheryl to tell us more about why she wrote the book and why wants you to read this story with the kids in your life.

Why did you write the picture book?

I wrote the book because I wanted to share a visual Aboriginal story about the love of family built on the power of our Elders and Ancestors. My mother, to whom this book is dedicated, is a wonderful storyteller who used her art to share stories with her children. She would always say that animals and flora are the living spirits of those who have passed, and each have their own story that we carefully must listen to. I too have listened intently to my mother and am honoured to continue her legacy of storytelling.  Although she is unable to paint, I have been fortunate to support a young Aboriginal designer who’s artwork honours my mother’s artistic style.

What does the story mean to you?

Like my mother’s stories, all of my stories have a moral and a cultural learning. In Ninni Yabini, the love of family has its foundations from our Ancestors who constantly watch us especially when we are challenged, fearful and anxious. I wanted to share with young children that when we are scared and drop our heads, that in fact we need to look up to find solutions. In this story, when Yabini is lost, her ancestors speak softly to her to look up to the night sky where her namesake is a beacon of light for hope, inspiration and strength.

What is it like to publish a story that’s in Noongar and in English?

I have grown up learning Noongar, but was taught a mixture of dialects – specifically Djiraly Northern dialect, Kongal-boyal South-eastern dialect and Kongal-marawar South-western. I engage in speaking language with my own children and a large cohort of Aboriginal children and young people whom I coach in basketball and I have done this all my life. I also am conversant, like many urban Aboriginal people, in Aboriginal-English. An added strength to my multi-lingual assets is Wongutha, which is my husband’s language from the North-eastern Goldfields region. Today, I am self-learning the orthography of all three Noongar dialects so that I can scribe a traditionally ‘spoken’ language into written languages to help keep language alive and stored for future generations.

What do you hope kids and their carers will get out of reading Ninni Yabini?

For young children, I hope that they will gain an appreciation that a home is built on love, respect, responsibility and history, and that they are a big part of what makes a family and a home. I hope that young people will understand that all living creatures have a connection to each other and with the earth and skies that surround us. That what they do in life will impact those around them, but when they are sad or scared they must look up for the light in their life.

For carers, I hope that they will appreciate their role in their families for the way in which their children see the world and the things in the world.  I hope the adults reading the story will engage in regular conversation with their children and honour the strengths of Aboriginal people, their connection to each other and to all living things.

Ninni Yabini by Cheryl Kickett-Tucker and Tyrown Waigana is available in all good bookstores and online. Cheryl will be signing copies of her book on Saturday 3 September at The Open Book in Mosman Park and 10 am on Saturday 10 September at Big W, Midlands, WA.

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