Children’s Book of the Week: Old Man Gapu’s Bark Painting by Kyle Maplesden


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It was the simple illustrations of Old Man Gapu’s Bark Painting which first caught my eye, especially the portrayal of the gathering round the camp fire at the ceremony. The well-chosen genre of naive art makes the perfect partner for a tale of primitive customs and legends. What could be better – in simplicity there is often perfection!  And, as you will see from my review below, I thought the story was pretty good too!

Old Man Gapu's Bark Painting by Kyle Maplesden - Book cover - Children's Book Review on Mungai and the Goa ConstrictorAbout the Book

In Northern Australia’s Top End, when Old Man Gapu needs to illustrate the important creation story he’ll be singing about at the upcoming ceremony he sets out to harvest some tree bark to paint on.  Follow Old Man Gapu as he journeys into the forest to collect the supplies needed to create his story-telling masterpiece!

About the Author

Kyle Maplesden grew up in Canada where his interest in the world’s indigenous peoples was sparked by childhood visits to First Nations Reservations in Ontario. An intensive, lifelong study into the art and culture of indigenous tribes ensued with a defined focus on Australia’s Aboriginal peoples. Read more… 

My Review of Old Man Gapu’s Bark Painting

The first of Kyle Maplesden’s books, Old Man Gapu’s Bark Painting, tells the short and enjoyable story of Old Man Gapu as he searches for bark in the forest to make a painting for a forthcoming ceremony.                                                                                                                 After despatching his friend Luku to seek the materials needed to make a didgeridoo, Old Man Gapu sets off to the forest to find a tree to cut bark from for his painting. He decides only the Stringybark tree will do, so he selects the right one and proceeds to cut the bark in a way handed down through the generations. He then prepares the bark for the paint. At this point we have already learnt about early instruments, location and traditions, and primitive bark painting techniques.                                                                              Bit by bit, we see Old Man Gapu complete his handsome painting and go on to the ceremony to sing the ancient Creator legend of Wititj, the Olive Python, with Luku accompanying him on the didgeridoo he has made.                                                                         Knowledgeably told with charming illustrations, Kyle Maplesden’s short, educational and entertaining tale will delight any child.

A Review of Old Man Gapu by Adam Bard

Kyle Maplesden’s children’s books Luku Makes a Didgeridoo and Old Man Gapu’s Bark Painting are beautifully illustrated educational stories told with a warmth and kindness that makes them accessible to all ages, as enjoyable for the parent to read as the child to follow. It was really only after finishing and thinking about the stories for this review that I realized we learn about the aboriginal culture in the best way possible, the way they themselves pass on learning generation to generation: though the pleasure of story telling. I hope these books reach the huge audience they deserve and that Kyle Maplesden has more stories for us from Luku, Old Man Gapu and many other characters we’ll come to know and love. Buy and enjoy.

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An illustration of Gapu painting his bark - from Old Man Gapu's Bark Painting - Children's Book Review on Mungai and the Goa Constrictor

Gapu starts to paint his bark for the ceremony

An illustration from Old Man Gapu sitting round the fire at the ceremony -Children's Book Review on Mungai and the Goa Constrictor

Gapu sings at the ceremony as Luku plays the didgeridoo

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