Cheeky dogs: to Lake Nash and back by Dion Beasley and Johanna Bell

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Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760528119.
(Age: 5 to adult) Highly recommended. Themes: Aboriginal themes, Aboriginal stories, Autobiography, Outback Australia, Communities, The Lands. A wonderfully inventive chronicle of one man's life unfolds as pages full of those well known cheeky dogs punctuate his journey from Lake Nash to Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Elliott, and all places between in the eastern part of the Northern Territory abutting Sandover Highway. Here Dion was born in 1991, his mother going to Alice Springs, but returning to Lake Nash after his birth. From there he travelled all over the area, Soapy Bore, Elliott, Ampilatwatja, Canteen Creek, with his mother, finally living with his grandfather at Mulga Camp after her death. Each place has a mix of cheeky dogs coming in all shapes and colours. Once when Dion went to the shop several big angry dogs surrounded him and scared him. But now he loves riding his mobility scooter around the town of Tennant Creek where he lives with Joy and her husband, Tony, feeding the dogs and collecting rocks and images of dogs for his artwork. Joy, an old white woman, took Dion in when his grandfather died and is now his carer. Being profoundly deaf and contracting muscular dystrophy has not stopped this young man taking life as it comes, greeting every new day with purpose as he feeds and watches the dogs. His memoir is full fo life and humour and is intoxicating in its portrayal of a life lived so far from the cities where most of us live.
His lively illustrations are full of the dogs he sees in all the places he has lived and on each page readers will spot the dogs - on the roads, travelling in packs, fighting, surrounding the edges of the page. Beasley's marvellously naive style documents the many places he has lived, with his flat maps of the communities and camps, drawings of the houses, swimming pool, shops, images of the environment as well as drawings and photos of his journey through the footpaths and laneways of Tennant Creek. Readers will learn of the remote townships where he has lived and the life he lives now in Tennant Creek, of the events which fill his day. This is an absorbing look at one man's life in remote Australia, his affinity with his environment, his love of family and the place called Lake Nash.
Fran Knight