Sunday 11 December 2011

Side by Side - Shoulder to Shoulder

Side by Side - Shoulder to Shoulder by Neridah McMullin, illustrated by Ainsley Walters (One Day Hill)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN 9780980794823
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Football is an integral part of Melbourne and defines the culture of the city. Side by Side gives the young reader an insight into what that meant in the Great Depression where football teams bound communities and provided a distraction from the harsh realities of unemployment and hunger.

It is the eve of the 1935 Grand Final and, with hundreds of other supporters, young Tom and his grandfather attend the final training for the Collingwood team at Victoria Park. Grandpa points out the fearless players of  'The Machine' including the Collier brothers and Gordon Coventry as well as legendary coach Jock McHale. A buzz runs through the crowd when the news that Bob Pratt the champion full forward of South Melbourne, Collingwood's opposition in the 1935 Grand Final, has been hit by a truck.

Underlying the story of the club is the strength of the relationship of grandfather and grandson. Above all, it is the sense of belonging and familial loyalty to the team that comes through McMullin's text. Tom may be hungry but he feels lucky to be part of something bigger.

Ainsley Walters' colourful illustrations are perfect for the nostalgic feel of the book and the addition of original newspaper clippings, cartoons and photographs give a true sense of the era. A glossary of football and historical terms, facts and a rundown of six grand finals are included as well as biographies of many Collingwood players of the era.

Love 'em or hate 'em, Collingwood Football Club is an icon of Australian Rules Football and still holds the record of four premierships in a row from 1927 to 1930. Side by Side is perfect for young Collingwood fans and lovers of this great game.

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