Review Blog

Aug 19 2014

Badudu stories by May L. O'Brien

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Fremantle Press, 2014. ISBN 9781922089823.
(Age: 6-10) Recommended. Chapter book, Aboriginal themes, Early learning, Western Australia.
Four short stories, first published by May L. O'Brien in 1994 have been collected together to contribute to the growing store of literature about Aboriginal history. In these tales, O'Brien tells short snappy stories of her time at the Mount Margaret Mission, near Kalgoorlie where she received her European education. In some schools it was forbidden to speak their native tongue, but not so here. She was encouraged to learn English but the children were able to speak their own languages outside school hours.
In these stories O'Brien tells stories which reflect the difficulties in learning a new language and its idioms.
The first, Smartie pants, tells of a young boy eager to play football for the school, but unable to do so until he can understand more English and so take instructions on the field. He finally achieves this but is taken aback when someone calls him smartie pants. Fun is had when the teacher explains this phrase to the team.
Another, Which Jack? is similar in tone where a new boy without any English at all, brings Jack the boy from his class, instead of the implement for changing a car tyre.
Each of the four stories is funny, reflects difficulties in learning a new language and the patience shown by the other children and staff.
O'Brien attended this school, and so her stories are infused with the atmosphere and feel of the school and its cohort. The illustrations add more to the background of the school. The book has a short biographical piece about O'Brien and the school she attended, as well as a map, and several pages of the language spoken and used in the text, Wongi. These are delightful stories stand on their own, and most useful in a class where Aboriginal understandings is being discussed.
Fran Knight

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