Cover image for Sun Mother wakes the world : an Australian creation story
Sun Mother wakes the world : an Australian creation story
Wolkstein, Diane.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, 2004.
Physical Description:
1 volume [unpaged] : color illustrations ; 29 cm
An Aboriginal creation story in which the Sun slowly brings life to the Earth.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 3.9 0.5 78308.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PZ8.1.W84 SU 2004 Juvenile Non-Fiction Childrens Area

On Order



At the beginning of the world, it was dark and silent and nothing stirred anywhere, until a voice roused the sleeping Sun Mother in the sky, telling her it was time to wake up all the creatures of the earth.

The indigenous people of Australia believe that their first ancestors created the world and its laws. They also believe that the world is still being created in a continual process they call The Dreamtime. Renowned storyteller Diane Wolkstein has crafted a powerful retelling of an Australian creation story, illuminated by illustrator Bronwyn Bancroft's authentic, beautifully realized paintings.

Author Notes

Diane Wolkstein was born in Newark, New Jersey on November 11, 1942. She received a bachelor's degree from Smith College and a master's degree in education from Bank Street College in New York. She later spent several years in Paris, where she worked as a teacher and studied mime. She worked as New York City's official storyteller from 1967 to 1971. Her radio show, Stories from Many Lands, was broadcast on WNYC from 1968 until 1980. She also helped create the Storytelling Center of New York City, which trains thousands of volunteers and sends them into the city's public schools and libraries. She wrote more than 20 books during her lifetime including Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth with Samuel Noah Kramer and Esther's Story. She died while undergoing emergency surgery for a heart condition on January 31, 2012 at the age of 70.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

PreS-Gr. 2. In spare, rhythmic words, veteran folklorist Wolkstein retells an Aboriginal Australian creation myth that begins when the earth was asleep. When a soft voice tells Sun Mother that it's time, she travels to Earth, leaving a wide path of lush greenery and vibrant animal life in her footsteps. Returning to the sky, she continues to pass over Earth in cycles of light that become day and night. There are final adjustments. Sun Mother allows the animals the free will to choose their own features (Platypus couldn't decide . . . so she chose everything! ), and she creates Moon and Morning Star, who give birth to the first humans. Wolkstein bolsters her beautifully paced telling with a clear introduction that explains the concept of Dreamtime, and Aboriginal artist Bancroft's swirling, patterned, abstract paintings vibrantly suggest life's astonishing beginnings, from cell and egg to tree and animal. An author's note gives precise, extensive source information. Pair this with Phyllis Root's delightful Big Momma Makes the World (2003) for a multicultural story hour about the beginning of life. --Gillian Engberg Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Darkness. Silence. No fish swam. No animal stirred. The wind did not whisper. The earth was asleep." In the beginning of this folkloric creation tale, a "soft voice" tells Sun Mother to revive the slumbering earth and give life to the barrenness below. She sends her golden rays into dark caves and awakes the sleeping animals, who emerge into a bright new world. Wolkstein (The Magic Orange Tree) here adapts a legend of the indigenous Australian people, who believe "their ancestors created the world... and [it's] still being created" in a process called "The Dreamtime," according to the author's introductory note. Bancroft (Big Rain Coming), an indigenous Australian artist, underscores this dreamlike quality with her otherworldly illustrations. The compositions teem with amorphous creatures Sun Mother, a yellow shape-shifter, takes on tree-like roots, her arms literally make a circle at other points); dots, lines and curlicues form patterns and swirl across the pages in a kaleidoscope of saturated hues. Yet the story does not quite break out of the stiff, longwinded voice of the set-up pages, and the searching, wonder-filled sense of Dreamtime that Wolkstein hints at in her foreword never makes its way into the storytelling. Unfortunately, youngest readers may come away from the story more confused than enlightened. But older children interested in mythology and lured by the illustrations may well be mesmerized. Ages 4-7. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-4-Brilliant paintings enfold Wolkstein's retelling of an Australian Aboriginal creation myth. Awakened by a voice, Sun Mother leaves her home in the sky and travels the sleeping earth as grass, plants, and trees sprout in her footsteps. She wakes the dozing animals in their dark caves: first the crawling creatures-grubs, beetles, and caterpillars; next, the lizards, frogs, snakes, and fish; and finally, in the coldest cave, she wakes the birds and animals. She creates a beautiful world, then returns to the sky. Night frightens her creatures, until they discover that it isn't permanent. In time, Sun Mother lets the animals choose their own shapes and attributes: "Platypus could not decide what she wanted. So she chose everything. A beak, fur, webbed feet, and a tail!" Finally, Sun Mother gives birth to a daughter, Moon, and son, Morning Star. They, in turn, give birth to twins, the first woman and man. Sun Mother instructs them to care for the plants and animals, as all share a common home on earth. Though the tale is gracefully told, it is Bancroft's paintings that make the greatest impression. Bold colors and patterns lined with thick, powerful lines draw the eye along each page and bring the story to life. Wolkstein's authoritative notes carefully document her sources, and add insight into the origins of these tales.-Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.