Njunjul the Sun
by Meme McDonald & Boori Monty Bryor
Published by Allen and Unwin
161 pages, 2003
Here Comes the Sun
Reviewed by Sue Bursztynski
Njunjul the Sun is the third in a trilogy that began with My Girragundji and continued with The Binna-Binna Man. Both previous novels have won several awards and the first was the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year, deservedly so. It is longer than the first two books and aimed at an older audience, perhaps children who have grown up with the others. In any case, it is a full-length, though still easily-readable, young adult novel.
In the first novel, My Girragundji, the young hero found a frog that he believed was sent by the ancestors to help him. It died, but its spirit still advises him. The Binna-Binna Man told of the family's journey to the funeral of a relative who had died in the white man's lock-up. In only a few thousand words, it expressed the sorrows of the Aboriginal community and the rite-of-passage of a 14-year-old boy, who makes his own journey, as a child on the verge of young adulthood, and in terms of his cultural identity. It was warm, sad and funny all at once.
Like the other two books, this one is touching and warm, with dashes of humor to leaven the serious message. Even the horrific fact that any Aborigine who has an expensive piece of equipment needs to carry a receipt around to keep police from challenging him is lightened in the scene where Uncle Garth is pulled up by the police in his expensive Mercedes, muttering about the unfairness of it -- and merely told he's left a carton of milk on his roof. The beauty of these books is that, despite the sadness of them, there is no bitterness. Understandable anger, yes, but also the feeling that things will get better, when people like Garth have helped the whites to heal and then his own people can heal. In a speech that echoes the authors' philosophy, Garth tells his nephew:
Sue Bursztynski is a children's and fantasy writer and librarian based in Australia.