Mark Greenwood (text), Terry Denton (illut,) Boomerang and Bat, Allen and Unwin, May 2016, 32pp., $29.99 (hbk), ISBN: 9781743319246
Boomerang and Bat is a masterfully told true story of an indigenous Australian cricket team that experienced a celebrated tour of England in the mid 1800s (1868 to be exact), but were unacknowledged in their homeland.
Greenwood has crafted this historic episode in an active narrative with lively language to bring the story to life. Denton’s sketched and coloured illustrations echo the energy of the text, and have small details to draw the eye and shifts in perspective and palette to establish mood. In fact, on some pages I hoped for longer text to linger over the illustrations! The pair brings each personality to life and hit just the right emotional chord to keep the narrative uplifting despite tragedy and questionable ethics. The Aboriginal cricketers are the heroes of the story.
This is a quality work from cover to cover. The front endpapers engage in the narrative right off the bat (pun intended) with the cricketers illustrated in a mob above a map of their journey. The back endpapers have cameos of each of the team members, dignifying each with their aboriginal names and their special talents.
Greenwood and Denton have done a lot of research to ensure historically accurate details like the sashes and colours worn, and the emblem of boomerang and bat on the cricketer’s cap that inspired the title. I heard them speak at the CBCA Conference in May and had goose-bumps hearing their experiences. Read more about the research and creation of Boomerang and Bat in Reading Time’s interview with Mark Greenwood.
Boomerang and Bat is an uplifting story of an historical event that subtly encourages reflection on the treatment of indigenous people past and present, both on broad societal and individual levels. Below the narrative are deeper questions about the ethics of taking the team overseas and profiteering, and the treatment of the team, both on tour and upon return, that could be the basis for discussion with older children.
I wouldn’t like this book to be narrowed to an age range – it can speak to a broad readership, although aimed at the 7- 12 year old market. And the reader needn’t be a cricket-lover to be enthralled by this amazing story. As Greenwood states in the Reading Time interview “For Terry and I, Boomerang and Bat is not a cricket book, it’s an act of recognition.” And this they have done very well indeed.
Reviewed by Debra Tidball