My deadly boots by Carl Merrison, Hakea Hustler and Samantha Campbell

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A wonderfully positive story of being yourself, is presented by storyteller Carl Merrison and educator, Hakea Hustler. Together they have produced a story ostensibly about boots and how you feel when wearing them, but offering far far more, as the wearer comes to realise that he does not need these boots to feel confident and self assured.

The narrator saves his coins and orders the boots that must come by air to his community. He is proud to tell the postman that he saved up for these boots that are just the right colour and with spokes on the bottom, making him feel just great. Putting them on, he must put aside the snipes from others. His sister thinks he is getting above himself, the teacher wants him to wear school shoes, the policeman questions where he got them. But he repels the negative comments, saying how much better he jumps with them, how he can find a partner to do things with, and brush away the blues with them on his feet. They make him feel deadly. At football practice, he can run faster, kick the best torpedo, be active and healthy.

But there are down times with these boots: he feels he is between two worlds, he cannot feel the sand between his toes and must take them off when he goes swimming. Coming out of the creek he finds his wonderful boots have disappeared and sets off to find them. He talks to his grandfather who tells him that he does not need the boots, after all he did all those things before he bought the boots. Being too deadly was not about the boots, too deadly was him all along. A positive and empowering story about finding yourself amongst all the stuff we seem to hold dear will speak to many kids for whom the acquisition of goods takes up their time. This story shows them that they are strong powerful people who do not need outside things to make them feel confident.

Campbell’s illustrations take us to the community where this family lives, showing us the beautiful outback landscapes accessible by air. The vistas are panoramic and detailed, giving an insight into how different life in his community is compared to many reading the book.

Author Carl Merrison is a Jaru/Kija man from the Halls Creek area and worked with Hakea Hustler an educator with a commitment to Indigenous learning and empowerment, on the Honour book, Black Cockatoo (2018).

Samantha Campbell lives in Darwin and is descended from the Dagoman people from Katherine and illustrated Alfred’s War (2018).

Themes: Aboriginal themes, Outback, Possessions, Confidence, Self image.

Fran Knight