Review Blog

Aug 09 2011

The road to Goonong by David Cox

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2011. ISBN 9781 742375212.
(Ages 7+) Recommended. Historical picture book. David Cox remembers his childhood home with tenderness and warmth in this wholly engrossing story of the cycle of life. His family's farm is depicted with affection as he tells us of his early days when going to the local town was a major event, harnessing the old horse into the gig, made by dad from an old trailer no longer used as one since the car that pulled it had been sold. The depression makes inroads into their farm, but they carry on, until the drought of later years sees their animals die, the crops fail, necessitating the sale of their home. But between these events, Cox details the life on his farm. We hear of horses around their farm, the blacksmith's shop, the swagman on the road and the hilarious tale picking up a neighbour. We see the children milking the cows, working with dad, going to a local dance, all recalling the simple fun to be had by children in the past. All recreates the innocent time for the children, but in the background hints are given about the cyclical nature of life on the land. The Aboriginal group, the Bayali, are moved on, the blacksmith shop closes down, animals begin to die as the drought sets in, war is declared and Darwin is bombed, until finally all is sold and the family must go to the city to live, while dad works further out west to support them.
A beautiful book that deals with life in the past for many Australian families, showing their daily routines, hinting at darker forces, but always stressing the underlying warmth of the family. The illustrations by David Cox, in water colour and pen and ink, reveal much that the text omits, and the two compliment each other. This will be a lovely book to use in the classroom when discussing life in the past and changes in Australia's lifestyles, and also of life within a loving family.
Fran Knight

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