Tuesday 12 February 2013

The Lost Tail

The Lost Tail by Patricia Bernard, illustrated by Tricia Oktober (FORD ST)
HB RRP $22.95
ISBN 9781921665868
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Illustrator Tricia Oktober has done an incredible job of illustrating the detailed features of the characters in The Lost Tail. Their eyes seem to peer at the reader from the page. She has brought the story to life using vibrant colours to depict the flora and fauna of the forests, and to accentuate the face and body painting, masks and head dresses, and traditional costumes. What can one address first in this exceptional book which concentrates on bringing into focus the traditions and customs of Papua New Guinea?

The Bundi Boys have set out on a five day walk from their village to Goroka (which is the capital of the Eastern Highlands Province of PNG) and the dance festival there. They want to win the competition with their snake dance.  Alfred, the tallest, carries the head of the snake. The others support the body. Nura hears his mother’s voice saying, ‘you are very important. You carry the snake’s tail’.

The boys have been made aware of the dangers they may encounter, but Nura knows that Bundi warriors are never afraid. But after the journey, when sleep overtakes them, Nura awakes to an empty hut, and is filled with fear.

There is now a snake without a tail carrier and a boy alone amongst crowds. He asks a man with a straw in his nose, the women wearing moss wigs, a group of ghost dancers, and two beauty queens if they’ve seen anything. All say no.

He passes drummers in blue-striped skirts, chicken dancers, warriors carrying bows and arrows. Suddenly, he sees the tail. He is overjoyed for the Bundi Boys can’t dance without Nura. But can they win the competition?

This book is beautifully designed by Grant Gittus. The text and illustration have united to provide a spectacular ‘culture tour’ for the reader aged from 5-105 years.

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