Review Blog

Dec 13 2019

Yinti Desert Cowboy by Pat Lowe and Jimmy Pike

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Magabala Books, 2019 (c2000). ISBN: 9781925936933.
Recommended. Themes: Aboriginal life; Station life and work. The Yinti stories follow young Aboriginal lad, Yinti, as he grows, lives and works in North West Australia. In the third book in the series, Yinti has begun work as a station-hand on one of the cattle stations out of Derby, in Western Australia. Demonstrating great skills and capacity to learn quickly, he puts his considerable talents to work as a 'cowboy', wrangling cattle and riding horses. A later stint on a sheep station develops his station skills further. Aboriginal life changes as most of his community head to work with the kartiya (white people) who are running the stations, and their traditional skills are adapted to a new way of life. With the advent of wages, the provision of kartiya food supplies, and with risks of the stockman life sometimes requiring medical treatment as a consequence of injury, there are many changes in Yinti's life.
The insights into Aboriginal life after moving from a purely traditional hunting lifestyle are revealed in this simple collection of anecdotal stories, based on Jimmy Pike's own experience. The book is a great insight into aboriginal ingenuity and capacity, and is worth reading. Although there are references to historical atrocities involving aboriginal people, this is handled very simply and yet powerfully for a young audience.
Having now read all three of Yinti's stories, I am impressed at the power of these stories to create cultural understanding. They are certainly worth sharing with a young audience and would make great read-aloud stories. Note, by the end of this, the third book in the series, Yinti is exploring 'adult life' and a romance with a married girl at the back of the station wood-pile is obliquely hinted at, rather than explained in detail. This book is perhaps more suited to a slightly older reader as a consequence.
Carolyn Hull

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