Crow and the Waterhole

“ I am often asked if there are any limits on what I would write for the young. I accept at least one limit, and it is this: I will never tell a story without hope. It is perhaps why I enjoy YA literature so much; I want to see good triumph over evil and it generally does in my genre, although not without hardship and sacrifice. Good triumphs because that is exactly what should happen in a world of infinite possibility (including the possibility of justice). And if some adults are inclined to think that narratives of unremitting bleakness are more realistic, then that is surely an indictment on the world we create for the young and not the one they would create for themselves, were they ever given the choice.

The first story I ever published and illustrated is a book called Crow and the Waterhole. That story came to me in a dream. I saw a crow who gazes down at her reflection in the waterhole below her tree. She believes she is seeing another crow, one far more wonderful than she is. So she goes out in the world to seek her destiny, but she keeps seeing other crows – in a river, a lake, and a puddle. Each new Crow is more wonderful than the last, and Crow despairs. Finally, a clever kookaburra explains that she is staring at her own image. So Crow flies back to her tree, and from that time on, whenever she meets someone seeking their destiny, she says to them: ‘Your destiny lies within you. All you have to do is learn how to see it.’

I believe the tale was a gift given to me by my ancestors. They knew I was at a stage in my life when I needed to hear that story. And it is still my dream, but no longer for myself. It is what I want for all the children and all the teenagers of this earth – to be able to find their own image in the world around them and recognise their own value. That value then multiples ten-thousandfold because those who have travelled through doubt and fear to be able to nurture themselves are also the ones who will be the most nurturing of others. The reverse is also true; we all understand that a lack of self-worth leads to destructive cycles of behavior. The effects of our actions are always exponential, which means we can be more powerful than we know.

I am going to assume that anyone who loves stories thinks that more stories (and more perspectives) are better than less. So to all the book lovers, I say this: be aware.

When you go into a bookstore or shop online, start paying attention to the faces on the covers and the names of authors. Are you seeing the complexity and diversity of the world looking back at you? This is important for adult readers, of course, but it is more important for the young. Where are the stories in which they are the heroes, the ones written by and about people like them? And if these books are not present, don’t let anyone tell you they don’t exist, at least, not without investigating that claim.


If you find a lack of stories, ask that bookstores and libraries stock the books that allow children and teenagers to find themselves in the faces on the covers and the names of the authors. Ask that writers’ festivals and events do too. And if there is a lack of monetary resources, make some noise about that as well. The likelihood is that the critically under-resourced schools and libraries will be those located in disadvantaged areas (in other words, the very places where the young need stories the most).



So let’s do what we can to help create the world the young would choose for themselves, the one where they are valued. And then watch as different cultures and perspectives interact in narrative space, affirming their understanding of themselves and gaining a better understanding of each other.

The world of the young is one of limitless possibilities – give them enough support, and they will expand the boundaries of all worlds into infinity.“-  Ambelin Kwaymullina


full article