A YA Double Dip: Lurking Monsters and Hidden Treasures

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You might want to select a snack that can be eaten on the run for today’s Double Dip review, because one of these books might have you dashing for safety.  Or perhaps you’d like to choose a snack that reminds you of home; some comfort food to ease you into the mood for today’s second YA offering.   We received both of these titles from their respective publishers via Netgalley.

First up we have Nightfall by Jake Halpern and and Peter Kujawinski.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

On Marin’s island, sunrise doesn’t come every twenty-four hours—it comes every twenty-eight years. Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold and the shadows are growing long.

Because sunset triggers the tide to roll out hundreds of miles, the islanders are frantically preparing to sail south, where they will wait out the long Night.

Marin and her twin brother, Kana, help their anxious parents ready the house for departure. Locks must be taken off doors. Furniture must be arranged. Tables must be set. The rituals are puzzling—bizarre, even—but none of the adults in town will discuss why it has to be done this way.

Just as the ships are about to sail, a teenage boy goes missing—the twins’ friend Line. Marin and Kana are the only ones who know the truth about where Line’s gone, and the only way to rescue him is by doing it themselves. But Night is falling. Their island is changing.

And it may already be too late.

Dip into it for…  nightfall

…a broody, moody atmosphere that invites the reader to satiate their curiosity over what happens during Night on the island of Bliss.  There are a lot of questions raised during the early parts of the book – why do the villagers have to rush to leave the island? What’s so important about leaving the houses “without stain”?  What is this year’s worth of isolation for Marin all about? – and not all of these are fully answered by the end.  I didn’t feel bereft by the fact that some of the questions I had were left hanging, and I’m not sure if this is a standalone or a series opener, but the ambiguous ending worked effectively here either way.  I really felt drawn in by the writing in the first half of the book as I struggled, along with the protagonists Marin, Kana and Line, to make sense of the tension and odd ritual behaviour of the islanders before the fall of Night.

Don’t dip if…

…you’re expecting a full on horror experience.  This definitely wasn’t scary in the traditional sense, but there are a few twists that I didn’t see coming.  I actually felt slightly less interested in the book once the secret of the Night was revealed, but for three quarters of the story I was deeply engaged.

Also, there is at least one gaping plot-hole that is never addressed, namely, why on earth would this group of people live on an island that they have to move away from every fourteen years, when there are clearly other places they could live?  I found this issue a niggling annoyance throughout the book, particularly when the frenzy of leaving is going on.

Overall Dip Factor

For the first three-quarters of this story, I would allocate 4 stars.  For the remaining quarter, 2.5 stars.  So overall, I did enjoy this book greatly, but my level of excitement and curiosity dipped considerably before the end.  The set up to the story was fantastic in that it really does make you want to find out what is behind the odd behaviour of the islanders, and as Night rolls in and the tide rolls out, the author has included some super cool twists that will ignite the imagination.  All in all, this was an unusual story and an engaging read for the most part.

Next up we have historical fiction novel The Search for the Homestead Treasure: A Mystery by Ann Treacy.  Here’s the blurb fom Goodreads:

Aunt Ida would boil him in the laundry cauldron if she knew where he was. On the long wagon ride to the old homestead, she warned them about the Gypsies they’d encountered, and now here he was, ducking into a colorful caravan with Samson, a Gypsy boy he had met . . . underwater. And it was the best thing to happen since they’d moved from Stillwater to this lonely, hard place to try to reclaim the decrepit family farm.

Missing his friends and life as it was before his brother’s accident and his mother’s silent grief, fourteen-year-old Martin Gunnarsson is trying to hold his family together on the homestead where his ancestors died of diphtheria in 1865. The only one who had survived was his father, a baby found in the arms of his older sister Cora. But somehow rumors of a treasure on the farm survived, too, and when Martin discovers Aunt Cora’s journal in a musty trunk in the hayloft, he thinks it might give him a clue. But what exactly is he looking for?

Reading Cora’s diary in secret, and just as stealthily becoming fast friends with Samson and his Roma family, Martin slowly begins to see his new surroundings, and himself, a little differently. But only when he recognizes that his small sister, for so long a mere pest, holds the true key does Martin start to understand where the real treasure might be found.

Dip into it for…  cover4

…an engaging family drama and historical fiction piece featuring friendship, hardship and one boy trying to connect to his past in order to secure his future.  The book opens at the close, so to speak, as we are privy to the final chapter of the life of Martin’s aunt Cora, and the events that lead to Martin’s father being raised by another family.  Soon enough we are introduced to Samson, a traveller boy and the first friend Martin makes in his ancestral home.  The story revolves around Martin’s efforts to save the family farm from foreclosure on behalf of his father, who has met with an accident.  The book flicks between Martin’s actions in the present and the nuggets of information that Martin can glean from Cora’s diary, which may offer the key to solving Martin’s problems.

Don’t dip if…

…you are hoping that the titular mystery and homestead treasure are going to play a big part in the story.   Rather than chasing after the elusive family treasure that may or may not be hidden on the farm, Martin devotes most of his time to doing more sensible things to save the farm, like engaging in hard work and asking for help from his new friends.  I couldn’t help but feel that this book was deliberately misleading in the title, to make it sound a bit more adventurous than it actually turned out to be.  This doesn’t mean it was a bad book, just not what I was expecting from the title.

Overall Dip Factor

I found this to be an engaging and interesting historical story featuring strong themes of friendship, the benefits of effort, loyalty and teamwork and the links between families that run through generations.  If you ignore the homestead treasure part, this is still a solid story that stands on its own merits, with characters that are well developed and a storyline that will appeal to young readers interested in tales of history and friendship.  Overall, while not exactly what I expected, I still found this to be a worthwhile read.

I will leave you at that, replete, as you are, with a repast of absorbing stories to digest.

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

The Maniacal Book Club Reviews…Captain Pug!

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I hope you’re ready for cuteness overload today because the Maniacal Book Club is pleased to introduce you to an adorable (and hardy!) little protagonist who will likely steal your heart, as well as your jam tarts.  I speak of Captain Pug: The Dog Who Sailed the Seas, who is making his debut in a delightfully illustrated early chapter book by Laura James and Eglantine Ceulemans.  We received a review copy of Captain Pug from Bloomsbury Australia and he has immediately become a favourite of the eldest mini-fleshling in the dwelling.  But let’s find out more about this intrepid Pug!  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Pug is going on a seafaring adventure. He’s had jam tarts for breakfast. He’s wearing a smart sailor suit. There’s just one problem. Pug is afraid of the water!

Captain Pug is the first book in a glorious new illustrated series for fans of Claude and Squishy McFluff.

Captain Pug

How could you not love that sweet little puggy face?  Here’s what the Book Club think:

Guru Dave

maniacal book club guru dave

What does it take to follow one’s dreams? Courage, persistence and a sense of adventure.  What does it take to follow the dreams of one’s owner? All of the above plus a fancy hat.  We can learn much from the tenacity of young Captain Pug, who presses on despite a fear of water, to fulfill the hopes of his fine Lady Owner.  We can also learn much from Pug’s experiences in the gastronomic field – namely, the truth of that old piece of household wisdom about refraining from swimming (or indeed sailing) immediately after eating.

To0thless

maniacal book club toothless

There were no dragons in this book.  There is a cool little dog who tries to be the captain of a boat but he keeps getting seasick because he eats everything he sees.  I liked the two Footmen who had to carry the dog’s owner around in a chair.  I can imagine Bruce in a chair like that.

The ending is pretty exciting, with helicopters and a big ship and I really liked all the pictures.

Pug is pretty funny but I hope there’s going to be a Pug book with a dragon in it soon.

Mad Martha

maniacal book club martha

Captain Pug, oh Captain Pug!

Cute as a little red ladybug.

He keeps up his morale as he sails the canals!

Hits the right note while in a rowboat!

Proves no pug is finer while on a cruise liner!

Captain Pug, oh Captain Pug!

There’s no other dog we would more like to hug.

Bruce

While I’m not entirely smaniacal book club bruceure about the technique involved in Mad Martha’s poem, I do have to agree with her sentiment about just how charming Captain Pug is in this attractively presented little tome.  I am always a little skeptical of advertising material that insinuates that a reader will love this new book if they are a fan of an already published author or work, particularly when all the stories have in common is the fact that a dog is the main character.  The media release that came with this book indicated that it would be lapped up by fans of Aaron Blabey’s morally bankrupt picture book hero, Pig the Pug, presumably due to the pugginess of Captain Pug.  The eldest mini-fleshing in the dwelling, at five years old, is a massive fan of the aforementioned Pig, but I wasn’t sure he was going to enjoy this one simply because it had a pug on the cover.  Allow me to be the first to admit my ill-placed skepticism however, because after watching the read-aloud of this book (which took only two sittings) the mini-fleshling was already asking how long he would have to wait before the second book (Cowboy Pug) comes out. *January 2017, for those who are interested!*

So after a slightly apprehensive start, I freely confess to being won over by the fun, charming, humorous adventures of this cute little pug (who of course looks even cuter in a sailor hat).   One of the best things about the book is that it is illustrated throughout, with pictures placed strategically around the text.  This was an enormous boon to the mini-fleshling, as he is not quite ready for pictureless read-alouds but can handle listening to longer bits of text when there are pictures to help him keep up with the story.  The book also makes clever use of fonts and text enlargements to aid the newly confident reader.

The first few chapters moved a bit more slowly than I would have liked, setting up Lady Miranda (Pug’s owner), her life of luxury, and her dreams for Pug to achieve glory as a charmingly attired sea captain.  The second half of the book moved a lot quicker as Lady Miranda and Pug inadvertently become separated and Pug must face the trials of overcoming his fear of water in ever more precarious (and amusing) situations.

I would heartily recommend Pug’s first outing as an engaging read-aloud or read-together for those taking their first steps into longer books or for more confident readers who love a bit of silliness and a whole lot of beguiling illustration.

The Book Club gives this book:

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Eight thumbs up!

Until next time,

Bruce

WIN the first FOUR books in MG Fantasy Monster Odyssey Series!

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Welcome to giveaway number two on Giveaway Tuesday!  This is a biggie: one winner will receive the first FOUR books in Jon Mayhew’s Monster Odyssey series.

Yep, you heard correctly: ONE winner will receive FOUR books!

So after reviewing the fourth book in this series, The Venom of the Scorpion, earlier this year, Bloomsbury burst a generosity valve and kindly sent me the first three books in the series to go with it!  For that reason, one winner is going to receive the following (all blurbs from Goodreads):

The Eye of Neptune

eye of neptune

Prince Dakkar, son of an Indian rajah, has issues with authority. Expelled from the world’s finest schools, he is sent to an unconventional educator, Count Oginski. Dakkar plans his escape immediately. But something about the Count intrigues him, including a top-secret project which he shares with Dakkar – a submarine. But others are interested in the Count’s invention and what it might achieve and, when masked men kidnap the Count, leaving Dakkar for dead, he doesn’t know who was responsible. It could have been British Intelligence, or perhaps a sinister figure known only as Cryptos. Either way, Dakkar is determined to rescue the Count. Taking the prototype submarine, he sets off for adventure.

Cue shark attack, giant sea creatures, spies and an evil megalomaniac. From his undersea refuge, Dakkar plans to take them all on . . . with a bit of help from a Girl.

The Wrath of the Lizard Lord

wrath of the lizard lord 

Prince Dakkar and his mentor Count Oginski discover a plot by arch-enemy Cryptos to kill Napoleon. Arriving on their revolutionary submersible to intercept Cryptos, they glimpse a terrifying monster that seems to escape back into the bowels of the Earth. It leads them to discover an amazing underground world, and a plan more nefarious than they could ever have believed – even from Cryptos.

The stage is set for an epic showdown complete with a giant reptilian cavalry and the Battle of Waterloo, in another breathlessly paced and endlessly inventive adventure for fans of Percy Jackson.

The Curse of the Ice Serpent

curse of the ice serpent

Having stopped two of the six evil Oginski brothers, Dakkar now faces double danger from the Oginski twins – possibly the most cunning and devious of the brothers yet.

Set in the icy wastes of Greenland, Dakkar must battle giant bears, vicious arctic sharks and a sabretooth tiger as he hunts for the fabled Thermolith, a source of great heat energy which the Oginskis also seek, in order to complete their preparations for a new world order with themselves at the helm.

An action-packed adventure with hot-air balloon combat and a dramatic race across the arctic. Perfect for fans of Percy Jackson, Indiana Jones and monsters! Readers ready to move on fromBeast Quest will love this!

The Venom of the Scorpion

venom of the scorpion  A new and dangerous mission awaits in the fantastic Monster Odyssey series, in which our hero Dakkar must defeat a clan of evil brothers intent on ruling the world, while battling terrifying monsters. Inspired by Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Dakkar is a young Captain Nemo and these books are the most thrilling of adventures.

After being framed for murder, Dakkar must escape from prison and follow the only clue he has – a scorpion-handled dagger – in order to clear his name. Knowing this must be work of an evil Oginski brother, Dakkar soon finds himself in Algiers facing the deadliest crawling monster ever! But even if Dakkar can defeat this beast, he will face the ultimate betrayal – his enemy has been closer than he thought, all along.

Will there be anyone left who Dakkar can trust?

Pretty sweet deal, hey?  From reading the first and last of the books in this series, I can guarantee that they are action-packed, super pacey and perfectly pitched at confident readers in the upper primary and lower secondary year levels.  As well as monsters and steampunk submarines, there are strong friendships and themes of loyalty and justice threaded throughout the stories.

Because this is such a BIG prize, I’m afraid to say that this one is open to Australian residents only.  Sorry internationals (but you can enter my other giveaway for YA fantasy/romance Ruined by Amy Tintera here!).

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter link below.  The giveaway is open from the moment this post goes live (NOW!) and closes on May 24th at midnight (Brisbane Time).  Other Ts & Cs are in the Rafflecopter form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks again to Bloomsbury Australia for sending us the whole series!

Good luck 😀

Bruce

WIN a Copy of New Release YA Ruined by Amy Tintera!

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It’s Giveaway Tuesday here at the Bookshelf Gargoyle, so named because I have two giveaways starting today (which is, in fact, a Tuesday).  Giveaway number one is for a print copy of new release YA fantasy romance tale Ruined by Amy Tintera.  I received a copy of this one from Allen & Unwin, to whom all thanks for their generosity must go, but I knew straight away that this wasn’t going to be my kind of YA.  I did have a crack at the first chapter, which confirmed my initial impression, so there is nothing to do but offer it as a giveaway to the hordes of readers who DO like this kind of YA.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war; her parents were killed and her sister was kidnapped. Even though Em is only a useless Ruined – completely lacking any magic – she is determined to get revenge.

Her plan is simple: She will infiltrate the enemy’s kingdom, posing as the crown prince’s betrothed. She will lead an ambush. She will kill the king and everyone he holds dear, including his son.

The closer Em gets to the prince, though, the more she questions her mission. Her rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life – and her family – on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

Sound like your kind of thing?

Excellent!

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter link below.  This giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY and will run from the moment this post goes live (NOW!) until midnight on the 24th of May (Brisbane time).  Other Ts & Cs are in the rafflecopter form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Bruce

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Mondays are for Murder: Peril at End House…

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I’ve fallen back on an old favourite this month, since it’s been ages since I last got into a Poirot mystery.  The copy of Peril at End House by Agatha Christie that I borrowed from the library had obviously been subjected to a series of borrowers who clearly enjoyed a cigarette (or seven thousand) while reading, and I subsequently suffered a reading experience that included itchy eyes, runny nose and a general pervading stink…but I soldiered on and quite enjoyed the story.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Hercule Poirot is vacationing on the Cornish coast when he meets Nick Buckly. Nick is the young and reckless mistress of End House, an imposing structure perched on the rocky cliffs of St. Loo.
Poirot has taken a particular interest in the young woman who has recently narrowly escaped a series of life-threatening accidents. Something tells the Belgian sleuth that these so-called accidents are more than just mere coincidences or a spate of bad luck. It seems all too clear to him that someone is trying to do away with poor Nick, but who? And, what is the motive? In his quest for answers, Poirot must delve into the dark history of End House. The deeper he gets into his investigation, the more certain he is that the killer will soon strike again. And, this time, Nick may not escape with her life.

peril at end house.jpg

Plot Summary:

It’s a classic Poirot-comes-out-of-retirement story here, with Poirot and Captain Hastings inadvertently stumbling onto a life-threatening mystery while on holiday.  The standard set-up applies: a strange event draws Poirot in, a murder happens despite his best intentions and then Poirot goes full bloodhound mode until the murderer is found and the iconic “get everyone in a room and reveal the murderous fiend’s identity” unfolds to the delight of the reader.

The Usual Suspects:

This one has a good range of expected suspects.  There is the slightly mysterious and cold best friend of the threatened protagonist, her rich (or is he?) boyfriend, the true-blue Aussie renters on the block with some connection to the previous master of the house, the beyond-reproach military man who is fond of the protagonist, the family lawyer with a possible claim on the protagonist’s residence, and a collection of servants who may or may not be acting as the “person on the inside” for the killer.  Poirot actually writes a handy list of all the suspects at one point, including a mysterious unknown person who may or may not be involved.  Or actually exist.

The Hunt for the Murderer/s:

I’d have to say that this is a pretty straightforward example of a Poirot mystery, with exactly the expected amount of red herrings.  If this was the first Christie you had ever picked up, I expect you would be drawn in by various twists and turns, but for the seasoned Christie fan, the hunt unfolds just in the way you would expect it, with plenty of clues dropped that will allow canny sleuths to form a viable theory of who the murderer/s might be.  Prepare for a lot of self-flagellation on the part of Poirot and the usual amount of Hastings-baiting.

Overall Rating:

poison clip artpoison clip artpoison clip art

Three poison bottles for the truth in the old saying that bad things happen in threes.

Since it’s been such a long time since I’ve picked up a Poirot, I probably enjoyed this more than I would have otherwise.  It’s a textbook Christie, with all the plot twists you would expect (if you’re an experienced Christie reader) and a reveal that I probably could have guessed had I really pressed the little grey cells, but was completely satisfied with regardless.  The strange thing about this book compared to other Poirot stories I’ve read is that Christie seemed to leave obvious clues in plain sight.  I actually picked a few up as I was reading them, rather than my usual of thinking back to them later in the story as things start to come together.  Even though there was a bit of a sense of “been there, read that” with the story, I still found it really enjoyable as the characters are personable enough and the dialogue of the Australian characters was faintly hilarious.

I’d recommend this as a good starter if you haven’t read any Poirot mysteries before, or if you are looking for a fun Poirot romp that won’t make you work too hard, but will leave a satisfying aftertaste nonetheless.

I’m also submitting this one for the Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge hosted by Escape with Dollycas:

alphabet soup challenge 2016

You can check out my progress toward that challenge here.

Until next time,

Bruce

Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The “All the Single Ladies (and one Man)” Edition…

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Welcome to another Reading Round-Up!  Today’s books all feature single ladies (or single men) and we received all of them from their respective publishers via Netgalley.  Let’s hop to it!

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper (Phaedra Patrick)

Ten Second Synopsis: the curious charms of arthur pepper

Elderly Arthur finds out after his wife’s death that there is much he did not know about her life before she met him. He sets off on a quest to unravel the secrets of her charm bracelet.

Muster up the motivation because…

…if you enjoy quirky, feel-good stories featuring intrepid old folk then you should enjoy this.  Having said that, I do enjoy such stories, but elected not to finish this one.  There wasn’t anything wrong with the book per se, but the characters were a bit two-dimensional for my tastes and some quite unbelievable events had me not particularly connecting with the story.  I must have had the US edition as well, because Arthur uses the word “bangs” for fringe, and “trunk” for boot.  This completely threw out my engagement with the story, because it is inconceivable that an Englishman of Arthur’s vintage would ever have used the word “bangs” in that context, ever, for any reason.  **Honestly, can’t we give Americans more credit? I’m sure they could figure out what “fringe” meant given the context of the scene.  **  This would be a great choice for those moments when you’d like a light uplifting read that certainly won’t ask you to work too hard.

Brand it with:

Positively charming, oldies’ road trip, secrets from beyond the grave

The Woman Next Door (Yewande Omotoso)

Ten Second Synopsis:  the woman next door

Hortensia and Marion don’t like each other. Both have a hidden history. Both are alone. Slowly, and with great mistrust, they might grow to like each other. Or at least not loathe each other.

Muster up the motivation because:

This has all the features of your typical grumpy-old-ladies story, but with the added interest of being set in South Africa and delving unapologetically into the social and racial divides that plague that nation.  I did enjoy parts of this story but found it to be quite heavy going in certain sections.  Add to that the fact that Hortensia is thorny and often acerbic while Marion is the absolute reflection of late-to-the-party, trying-to-atone-for-years-of-racial-disinterest white privilege and the book might inspire some very uncomfortable moments of self-reflection for certain readers.  There’s a lot going on in this book, not least of which is the women’s fears about aging, regrets and surprises from their deceased spouses and whether the ship bearing the chance to atone for past transgressions has sailed.  I will admit to an expectation that this book would be more humorous than it is – the humour here being so dry as to be crumbling to dust.  Certainly though, this is an unexpected and unusual examination of many aspects of womanhood, motherhood, wifehood and sisterhood.

Brand it with:

Sisters doin’ it for themselves, grey areas, mean (old) girls

Sister Eve and the Blue Nun: Divine Private Detective Agency #3 (Lynne Hinton)

Ten Second Synopsis: sister eve

Sister Eve returns to the monastery after a brief leave of absence to attend a conference. All goes to pot however, when one of the key note speakers is found dead the night before an important speech.

Muster up the motivation because…

If you enjoy murder mysteries that are more about the enjoyment of a good murder romp than actually being believable, you should get a kick out of this.  It didn’t particularly float my boat, only because the events of the second chapter were so unbelievable that I couldn’t take the rest of the story seriously in any way.  I speak of the immediate aftermath of the murder in which, upon hearing of the death of the victim, Sister Eve doesn’t immediately rush to the scene to render first aid or at least see what the situation is, and instead has a prolonged chat with the victim’s brother.  Then there’s the fact that on arriving at the murder scene, Sister Eve interferes with a crime scene and actually BREAKS a major piece of evidence.  Finally, there’s the fact that nobody who hears of the fact that there may be someone dead or dying on the premises bothers to call the police.  These three things in quick succession diminished my engagement with the story tenfold.  The rest of the book follows the usual murder-mystery path with red-herrings and set-ups and the rest before an action-packed reveal.  A fun addition to the genre, but not my cup of tea, sadly.

Brand it with:

(Religious) sisters doin’ it for themselves, brotherly love, murder in the monastery

I hope you find something to lasso and take home in this lot!

Until next time,

Bruce

 

 

Boomerang and Bat: The Story of the REAL First XI…

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It’s time for some picture book love today and we were lucky enough to receive a little gem from Allen & Unwin (thanks!) that is informative, entertaining and a brilliant conversation starter for the sports fans among you.  Boomerang and Bat: The Story of the Real First Eleven by Mark Greenwood and illustrated by Terry Denton, tells the story of the first Australian cricket team – made up entirely of Indigenous men – to tour England.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

The first Australian cricket team to tour England was a group of Aboriginal stockmen. This is their story. In 1868 a determined team of Aboriginal cricketers set off on a journey across the world to take on England’s best. Led by star all-rounder Johnny Mullagh, and wearing caps embroidered with a boomerang and a bat, they delighted crowds with their exceptional skill. From the creators of Jandamarra, this is the remarkable story of the real first 11.

Boomerang and bat

If you’re looking for a cracking (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) narrative non-fiction picture book for the reluctant, sports-mad, mini-fleshing in your life, you should certainly get a hold of Boomerang and Bat.  Pitched at the middle to upper primary age range, the book takes an engaging look at the first Australian cricket team to tour England.  I found the story fascinating as an adult reader, with plenty of questions springing to my mind – not least of which, why is this event not more widely acknowledged and why are Indigenous people nowadays conspicuous only by their absence from our national cricket teams? – and I’m sure young cricket fans will get a kick out of seeing cricket “in the olden days”.  (No Rocket Man at these matches!)

The story has an incredibly subtle undertone that depicts aspects of life for indigenous people of the time.  While the team is received well as cricketers, there is still an undercurrent of “look at the performing natives” that is conveyed through the text and imagery.  I can imagine the book being used to excellent effect in the classroom to stimulate discussion around the social issues of the time – how would the men have felt, being lauded for their sporting skills, but not counted as citizens?  Did circumstances change for the men when they returned to Australia?  Did the men feel the trip was worthwhile, considering the death of one of their teammates?

The presentation of the book is gorgeous, with Terry Denton’s illustrations bringing the text to life.  The beautiful map that adorns the front endpapers is matched by the final endpapers depicting images of each of the team members, with their names, nicknames and a piece of information about their role in the team.  It’s hard to imagine Terry Denton as a separate entity from the Griffiths/Denton Juggernaut, but it’s wonderful to appreciate a more realistic illustrative style in this tome.

I will admit to enjoying this book enormously as an adult reader and being drawn in to the mystery of this event being lost in the annals of time.  I’m interested in finding out more – did these men have descendants?  If so, what do they think of their great-grandfathers’ sporting achievements? Could their perspectives have been included in this book somehow?

I think the mark of a good non-fiction book is to stimulate further curiosity about the topic. Boomerang and Bat has certainly achieved this for me as an adult reader and I can see it doing the same for mini-fleshlings.  Teachers in particular, get your grabby hands on this one and get it into your classrooms: stimulating discussion will be guaranteed!

Until next time,

Bruce