Friday 22 February 2013

Kick it to Me

Kick it to Me by Neridah McMullin, illustrated by Peter Hudson (One Day Hill)
HB RRP $19.99
ISBN 9780980794861
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

Hallelujah, the AFL season is nearly upon us again! But if it wasn't for Tom Wills and the Australian Aboriginal game of Marn-grook we would not have Australian Rules football at all. Kick it to Me captures the very beginnings of the greatest of sports, Australian Rules football, in this beautifully presented picture book.

Neridah McMullin takes us back to 1846 when a young Tom Wills lives in western Victoria and has his first contact with Marn-grook. Despondent over the end of the cricket season, Tom is searching for something to do. When his friend Jirra introduces him to the athleticism and fun of Marn-grook, Tom is gobsmacked and enthusiastically joins in.

Peter Hudson's colourful and lively illustrations have a freshness and vitality about them and the expressions of joy on the boys' faces as they play Marn-grook with their friends are a highlight of the book. Being Melbourne born and bred (and with a Sherrin for a soul) I can tap into this emotion. Football is exciting, it brings everyone together, it's fun!

Following the story, a fascinating biography of Tom Wills is included. Tom Wills has been credited with being the instigator of Australian Rules, blending aspects of different sports and developing the rules to create this unique game.The interaction in the text between Tom and the Aboriginal boys accurately depicts Wills' friendship with the local Djab Wurrung tribe whose language he became fluent in. As a youth, Wills attended school in Rugby and went on to study at Cambridge. On his return to Victoria, he became a leading sportsman and lobbied for a football club to be formed, working towards developing an Australian code.

There is also glossary of Aboriginal words and a forward by the Collingwood Football Club president, Eddie McGuire.

Kick it to Me is a book for young sports fans and a reminder of how Australia has managed to combine aspects of indigenous and European culture to come up with our own unique game and contribution to the sporting world.

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