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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

SHAKE A LEG By Boori Monty Pryor and Jan Ormerod. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2011

It’s a hot night in far North Queensland. Three boys are on a quest for pizza, as you do on a hot summer night. They find a highly unusual pizzeria whose owner not only makes – very unusual! - pizza and speaks Italian but tells indigenous stories, using song and dance in which the listeners are invited to take part. The boys are about to get a lot more than something to eat…

I’ve read Boori Monty Pryor’s novels, but this is, as far as I know, his first picture book/graphic novel, created with award-winning artist Jan Ormerod.

This book itself won a Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 2011 and it’s very clear why. It’s a joyous, stunningly-illustrated journey through traditional stories and it tells you that indigenous and non-indigenous Australians can celebrate their own traditions and each other’s together. You can almost hear the music and the storyteller. Perhaps an audio-book read by the author with accompanying book would be a good way to go?

It’s an interesting combination of graphic novel and picture-book and the pizza-maker looks just a little like a younger version of the author. That’s not surprising; Boori Monty Pryor does tend to write himself into his novels, so why shouldn’t the artist draw him in?

Mr Pryor has recently been appointed one of Australia’s first two Children’s Laureates, something that has been done in the UK for years. His job will be to encourage children to love reading and frankly, I can’t think of anyone better.

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