Review Blog

Aug 12 2010

Riding the black cockatoo by John Danalis

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Read by Stephen Pease. Louis Braille Audio, 2009. ISBN 9781742123578. Allen and Unwin, 2009. ISBN 9781741753776.
(Age 13+) Highly recommended. This is the inspiring story of John Danalis' journey to reconciliation. He grew up with the skull of an Aboriginal person, nicknamed Mary, on the mantelpiece of his home. He never questioned why the skull adorned the fireplace until he was studying a unit on Aboriginal Studies at university. In a tutorial he blurted out the truth about his family's skull and from then he went on a voyage of discovery, finding out where the skull came from and eventually getting Mary restored to his rightful home place in Wamba Wamba country.
Stephen Pease's emotive reading kept me on the edge of my seat as I avidly followed Danalis' journey, stage by stage, as he came to grips with the racism inherent in our society and which we often never question. The rendering of the different voices made it easy for me to keep track of the different characters, and Pease brought the compassionate Aboriginal characters alive. As Danalis struggled to find out where the skull had come from and how to return it home, I was moved by the forgiveness that the Aboriginal people showed to a family that had collected an Aboriginal skull.
I learnt a great about Aboriginal culture and reconciliation from this reading. I won't easily forget the journey that Mary made back to Wamba Wamba country, the humour that eased the telling of Danalis' story and the wonderful people he met on the way.
The foreword by Boori Monty Pryor gives a good introduction to the audio. I believe that a copy of the book or audio is essential for every library.
Pat Pledger

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