Matt Formston: Surfing in the dark by John Dickson. Illus. by Philip Bunting

cover image

The story of Matt and his determination to play sport like anyone else will entice younger readers to pick up this multi-faceted book, presented both in plain text and Braille. I envisage many readers trying the raised print for themselves and marvelling at just how small the dots are, wondering how long it would take people to become adept at its use. And layered over this are the wonderful illustrations by Philip Bunting, his images of Matt staring out at the reader, an honest alert face, big on grit and resilience. Bunting always includes a large does of humour in his work, and this is no exception. Readers will love following Matt’s journey to becoming a successful Paralympian, trying his hand at many sports along the way.

As a boy Matt hid his deteriorating sight well: he could ride a bike, climb a tree and run like the others. By his fifth birthday all he could see was a large black dot in the middle of what he was looking at and blurred around the edges. His parents decided he would continue as he was, playing sport, being involved, and he never looked back. Living near the beach he wanted to surf, and his family taught him to master a boogie board, until one day he was derided for being on an esky lid, so he learnt to surf. He practised until one day he caught glandular fever and this laid him low. At a point in his life where things became simply too hard, he left home, but asserted his old skill of asking questions. He became super fit, and did a 1200 k bike ride for charity which saw him being asked to train as a Paralympian. He has never looked back.

This wonderful story has messages custom made for all children: persevering, developing skills, asking questions, striving to do your best, amongst others. Kids will love reading of Matt’s fortitude in the face of adversity, and follow the story eagerly. That it is also told in Braille will intrigue younger readers who rarely see this form of communication, prompting them to further their interest and empathy for those for whom it replaces the written text.

This sturdy production is the first in a series of books published by Berbay and Vision Australia about Australian heroes who are blind or have low vision.  Called Big Visions, the series will include books about Craig Shanahan and Nikki Hind.

More can be found about this series here.

Themes: Blindness, Low vision, Surfing, Sport, Cycling, Determination.

Fran Knight