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Book Reviews

April, 2000

The Binna Binna Man
By Meme McDonald and Boori Monty Pryor.

Allen and Unwin, 1999. P/B $11.95

This is the sequel to CBC award-winning book My Girragundji. Like the first book, it is illustrated with photos taken by MacDonald. The first one was written by her based on stories told by Monty "Boori" Pryor about his childhood. The voice is the same, but the tone is darker, more serious.

The young narrator who found strength and courage with the help of a tree-frog sent, he believed, by the ancestors, is now a teenager. With his family, he is on the way to a funeral. "Sister Girl", a cousin, died, it is implied by suicide, after a spell in the white-man lockup - timely, in the midst of the current mandatory sentencing debate.

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In the course of the journey and the funeral, the young hero experiences a rite of passage, learning about himself with the help of the mysterious "Binna Binna Man" , who was initially presented as a sinister spirit figure and turns out to be nothing of the kind. Another cousin is also saved, physically and spiritually.

It's amazing how much the authors have crammed into a text that can't be more than a few thousand words long. The seriousness of the underlying message doesn't prevent plenty of humorous moments, such as the description of the family car, Shelley Babe, a lime-green Kingswood rescued from the scrap heap and only a bit rusty, and a practical joke by an uncle at McDonald's. The language is beautiful, the tone sorrowful, but not accusing. There is a great dignity about it.

Young readers might need a little background about the problems Aboriginal Australians are facing, if the book is discussed in class, but the general youth problems also discussed in the novel should ensure there will be some empathy by readers for the characters.


Sue Bursztynski

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ISSN 1328-8008
Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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: Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia : copyright © Festivale 2001 All rights reserved
Filed: 13-Apr-2000 : Last updated: : Last tested: Aug-1999

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