Black Cockatoo is a story that presents interpersonal family relationships and issues in a quite upfront but gentle manner.
Mia is the protagonist and she is struggling with the changes her brother is going through as a rebellious, defiant teenager. He is going through his own teenage angst struggle of fitting in with his group of friends versus respecting his own family, his own culture and traditional values as portrayed in the relationship with his grandfather.
Mia, at thirteen, (although she seemed much younger to me) takes on a position of observation to analyse her family’s turmoil.
This vignette is evocatively written, however, the portrayal of Mia’s brother’s issues is done through quite a few acts of animal cruelty. As an animal activist, I must say that I found this confronting. I have a belief that it is hard to unsee or unvisualise something you may never have imagined before. Through social media I have seen cruelty that I would never imagined possible and unfortunately those visuals remain in my memory. I worry that the depictions of cruelty in this book could either affect those reading it and/or put ideas into their heads.
There is, however, a beautiful scen at the end of the book between Mia and the dirran black cockatoo she has been caring for, where she must make a choice whether to keep the wild bird caged or to set it free into a world where it will not survive.
There are many issues crammed into this short story but poignant story. Many interesting points could be contemplated and discussed during and/or after reading it. The book incorporates Jaru Aboriginal language and Aboriginal English terms – with a helpful glossary at the back.
Overall, an evocative, interesting story that presents a lot of food for thought.