a lyrebird messenger

Riverton Press will publish a book next year by Italian author Vittoria Pasquini, a text that has been translated into English by Gino Moliterni. We have discussed the merits and demerits of bilingual publications as we prepare The Legend of Busby.

A friend and colleague of Vittoria has translated the children’s book Leonard the Lyrebird, written by Jodie McLeod and illustrated by Eloise Short, and a bilingual edition exists of Leonard, l’ucello lira. The translator, Mirella Alessio, told me I could contact that author – she lives in the Blue Mountains.

Riverton Press was there recently wandering the paths near the Three Sisters and saw a sculpture of a lyrebird perched on a railing. Not 20 metres distant was a real lyrebird sitting on the same railing watching the morning and cleaning her feathers. Then she changed her balance, spread the wings of her magnificent tail and took off.

This reminded me of the book and I decided to find Leonard the Lyrebird. I went to the bookshop near the food co-op in Katoomba and asked man behind counter, who immediately took me to Leonard and her companion Lilah the Lyrebird. He didn’t know about the Italian version. Suddenly a voice from man behind door, the one I hadn’t seen. He knows Jodie, he’ll text her. And he did, right then and there. The other man took my phone number and would be in touch. I resisted buying any book as I had a bush walk ahead.

I was sitting on a wooden bench in wonder at the flowering wild waratahs at Govetts Leap and checked my phone, there was a message, not from the bookshop, but from the author herself. She gave me her address and said she’d be going out but would leave Leonard on the verandah and I could leave money under mat.

The waratahs had pleased and amazed me, this message only compounded my joy, restoring a little of my damaged faith in human kindness and trust.

The one person I know in Katoomba gave me a lift to Jodie’s place in another act of generosity. Next morning, at a different bookshop (sorry, LITTLE LOST BOOKSHOP, but we were in another town!), this driver purchased three books, the lyrebirds Leonard and Lilah, and the one I’d resisted the day before, the latest from Jodie McLeod and Eloise Short, The Black Cockatoo With One Feather Blue. I bought this last one too, for Eileen.

One thing more: on my second early morning walk around Echo Point I saw the lyrebird again. I remembered my father‘s simple response when I made a comment one day about a willy wagtail flitting from tree to fence. He lives here, he said.

And now, back to the original question, bilingual books, do they work? They certainly do for students of language and of translation, and is wonderful in the case of Leonard, l’ucello lira with its rich onomatopoeic vocabulary, as the book has a QR code link to the audio version in Italian.

Pix from around Govetts Leap and Echo Point. As you can see, the lyrebird is not balanced on a railing! This sculpture is closer to Blackheath.