Title: Guardians (Wylah the Koorie Warrior, Book 1)

Authors: Jordan Gould and Richard Pritchard

Illustrator: Richard Pritchard

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Publication date: 31 May, 2022

RRP: $15.99 (AUD)

A Study Guide can be accessed here

Guardians is the first book in the Wylah the Koorie Warrior series co-authored by Jordan Gould an Indigenous Australian from the Peek Whurrong tribe in Warrnambool, Victoria and Richard Pritchard, an Indigenous Pacific Islander of Samoan heritage. The meticulously researched illustrations in this chapter book have been created by Richard Pritchard. This thrilling action-adventure, historical fantasy story, recommended for readers 8-14 years, is set 40 000 years ago and seamlessly embeds the rich history, language, culture and knowledge of the Peek Whurrong people into the story. This was a time when megafauna roamed the land and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in many different and distinct groups with their own language, customs, culture and laws and these cultures are still practiced today by the longest continuous living culture on earth. This story deftly strikes the balance between being highly informative, imaginative and engaging. This is ultimately a story of hope, redemption and transformation, one that will have the reader cheering for the heroine, Wylah as she fearlessly works together with a memorable cast of characters, including anthromorphic animals and characters from Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories such as Tiddalik, to fearlessly fight to help and save her people and work towards becoming the Koorie Warrior she was destined to be.

Wylah (pronounced Wheel-la), daughter of the Maar nation is a fearless protector, a young First Nations girl who embodies all the qualities an excellent leader has. She displays such humility and integrity and is selflessly driven to help others (people and animals). She is kind, courageous, resilient, determined, intelligent, all while earning respect and constantly striving to improve, not seeing failure as an obstacle, but rather as an opportunity to learn. Throughout her journey Wylah gains support to help her fight against nefarious self-serving humans who have formed an alliance with fierce dragons to try and steal powerful totems they need to find gold. They already have one of the totems in their possession and it is up to Wylah to stop them from securing the others.

Wylah’s village comes under attack and is ravaged by powerful dragons; these are the ancient enemy of the Guardians. All of Wylah’s people and the animals are captured in massive cages by the invading dragons and Wylah’s Grandmother, a great Koorie Warrior is fatally injured in this attack. Before she enters the Dreamtime, she tells Wylah that she can save her Peek Whurrong people and become the Koorie Warrior she is destined to be. She instructs Wylah that she must unite the five Guardians and totems as they will protect her. Her Grandmother gifts her Kae Kae, her powerful boomerang and tells Wylah to find their fearless Guardian, Pippy. Wylah feels unprepared for this seeming insurmountable task and initially feels that this is unachievable without her Grandmother’s physical presence. However, her trepidation and fear is short lived as Wylah pledges to locate the Guardians and rescue the animals as well as her people.  

This epic journey involves meeting the Chiefs and a Chieftess from other tribes and areas. Some of them are facing a dire situation which threatens their people and others test Wylah to challenge her to strengthen her mind in her quest to become a Koorie Warrior. If Wylah is successful in helping a chief , or proves that she has developed a necessary skill of a warrior, she is gifted a totem, for example, a spear, axe or shield, from each of the tribes. Each of these manifests into a mighty animal. Wylah has the power to call on these Guardians to protect her as well as return them to their totems. The chief and Chieftess also share personal stories about their interaction and experiences with her Warrior Grandmother who they all deeply respect and are indebted to.

Embedded throughout this story is language and culture from the Peek Whurrong people who have resided in south-west Victoria for tens of thousands of years. Footnotes have been used to translate the language as well as to explain cultural practices. A glossary is also included at the back of the book to support the story and translate the English word, provide its meaning, pronunciation and where appropriate, identify the animal species.   

In his dedication, Richard Pritchard states his hopes for this story, he says, “may Wylah be a vessel to start a conversation of love, acceptance, unity and empathy.’ Wylah will no doubt be the start of many conversations and a reason why children know more about First Nations peoples, culture and language. She embodies what it is to be a quintessential Australian hero.

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