Review Blog

Jun 01 2020

The friendly games by Kaye Baillie

cover image

Illus. by Fiona Burrows. MidnightSun Publishing, 2020. ISBN: 9781925227642.
(Age: 5+) A motherless boy called John Wing was taken into a welcoming children's home where he had many other children to play with and everyone was invited to each other's birthday party. At eight he was adopted and missed the friends he had at the children's home. New to his school he checked out all the sports he could find, but instead of choosing one to learn, he found out about the Opening Ceremonies at the Olympic Games. He was enthralled, but could not understand why there was no big closing ceremony. He read all he could about the Olympic Games, especially when it happened to be in Melbourne in 1956. He loved watching the bunting and the lights, and loved the way ordinary people joined in, especially when taking in some of the athletes to their homes. John read all he could, even the articles about boycotting and fights between the athletes, and was concerned that this was what people would remember, not the friendliness of the games, which was the aim. So he wrote a letter. He heard nothing back from his letter writing, but at the end of the games he was amazed to see the athletes all together just as he had suggested, celebrating the closing of the Friendly Games.
A wonderful tribute to the power of just one person, The friendly games shows how one boy wrote a letter which made a significant change to the direction of the Olympic Games, and instead of the Melbourne Games being known for the politics which divided some teams, is known forever as the Friendly Games.
An author's note at the end of the story fills out the background on which this picture book is based, and gives more detail about John's life.
This book would be useful when talking about the Olympic Games, but the illustrations of Melbourne and the spirit which surrounded the city at that time may have been better served as photos. There are some apt touches, with John watching TV in a shop front, TV only just getting to Australia in that year, and the images in the streets of Melbourne. Themes: Olympic Games (Melbourne), The Friendly Games, Sport, Migration.
Fran Knight

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