Knockabout cricket by Neridah McMullin
Ill. by Ainsley Walters. One Day Hill (distributed by Scholastic)
2015. ISBN 9780992439736
(Age: 6+) Australian themes. Aboriginal themes. Cricket. Historical themes. There are a few picture books being published at the moment with a brief introduction to the topic at hand and aimed at lower to middle primary students, with illustrations adding to the non-fiction text. Random House series, simply called, Meet..., is one such series having different authors produce brief texts for younger readers. This series includes picture books about Mary McKillop, Ned Kelly and Douglas Mawson.
With this series from Scholastic, a brief fictionalised story of an incident or person is given alongside some boxes of facts, which with a naive style of illustration seems to be aimed at generally the same group of readers. The first in this series, Burning the bails, the story of the Ashes (Krista Bell, and Ainsley Walters, 2014) showed the story surrounding the famous Ashes, the result of rival cricket teams battling it out between England and Australia.
With Knockabout cricket, McMullin gives us a story of Johnny Mullagh from a station in Western Victoria. He was a cricketer and represented Australia in an Aboriginal cricket team which toured England in 1868, a game he played until his death in 1891.
A footnote in history is brought to life for younger readers who will appreciate McMullin's succinct style and Walters' naive illustrative technique. The spotlight is centred on this man who few people know about and this book will give his story a wider audience. And it may spur some readers to look further for information about Johnny Mullagh.