I’m not even sure this book is still available in stores, but every now and then I stumble across a copy and it takes me straight back to my childhood, when The Quinkins was on my bookshelf and regularly in my lap.
This is an Aboriginal folktale, first published in 1979, about the Yalanji tribe from Cape York and their spirit people, The Quinkins. There were two groups of Quinkins: the nasty, short Imjin who would try to steal the Yalanji tribe’s children and the kinder, extremely tall and skinny, Timara who would try to stop them.
A brother and sister from the Yalanji tribe are lured away by an Imjin, who is impersonating their father’s voice. The Imjin is trying to get the children to his cave, but a Timara is watching and is determined to rescue the children before it is too late.
Why I love it:
As a child, this story fascinated me; I’m not sure whether it was the fear of being stolen away from my parents, the illustrations of a part of Australia I have always adored, or the idea of the tall, kind, stick-thin Timara who lived in the cracks in the rocks (which I loved to climb and clamber over on our caravanning holidays). It was probably a combination of all those things.
When I again stumbled across The Quinkins, just a few days ago, I was thrilled to get a chance to re-read it and look at it with adult-eyes. Interestingly, it still has a hold over me. It’s a great story – a little creepy, but great and if you can stumble across a copy, I highly recommend giving it a read.
Themes to discuss with your child:
- Australian and Aboriginal history
- Aboriginal culture
- The landscape of Australia
- Folktales and the reasons behind their creation
- Similarities between cultures
- Good and evil
Questions to ask your child:
- What do you think this book might be about?
- Do you think this is a fiction book (a story) or a non-fiction book (facts)?
- Is this a book you want to read? Why/why not?
- Who are the people on the cover? What can you tell me about them?
- What do you think the drawings represent?
- From looking at the people, their clothing and the land, what can we tell about where they live?
- Did you enjoy this story? Why/why not?
- How did the Imjin try to trick the children?
- What are two things the Timara did to save the children?
- How do you think the parents felt when they realised their children were missing?
- This story has a similar message to lots of our well-known fairy-tales, such as Hansel and Gretel; why do you think stories like this are told across so many different countries and cultures?
- The Yalanji tribe, in the story, are from Cape York; do you know where this is? See if you can locate it on a map of Australia.
- Tell me three things you know about Australia’s Aboriginal people.
- Tell me three things you would like to find out.
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