Monday, 27 April 2015

Nanna’s Boot Camp

Nanna’s Boot Camp by Vicki Griffin (Morris Publishing) 
PB RRP $15.00
ISBN 9780987543462
Reviewed by Francine Sculli

When one hears boot camp these days, we automatically think of sweat, tears and lycra. But Vicki Griffin’s Nanna’s Boot Camp brings a whole new meaning to bootcamp, a softer and subtler feeling that oozes the warmth only a grandmother could.  And when it comes to grandmothers, we know that there is wisdom they carry that no-one else does, like a secret society passed on through the generations.

All this is what makes Nanna’s Boot Camp a simple and lovely tale that celebrates this very essence. And it brings a whole new meaning to the teens that visit Nanna’s boot camp one holiday. Apprehensive at first, the teens are confronted by the storm brewing in the sky and the large tent set up with boots piled up outside its doors. But the smell of damper wafting through the air and the warmth of Nanna’s voice eases them into the experience.

Nanna guides the teens through an experience they won’t get anywhere else – catching prawns in the creek at dusk, guided by the light of an old kerosene lamp, and cooking by the angry flames of an outdoor fire pit. It  is here, by the fire, that they uncover the story of the boots and the particularly large single boot they are all mystified by, as Nanna passes on the tales of all the mobs that have come before them and lost their in the muddy banks of the creek. This presents a beautiful moment, as the traditions of oral storytelling seep through the pages. The teens meet owner – Uncle Joe – who ventures off for more fishing in the creek, only to re-emerge barefoot and proud to say that his boots will rest there until the dry season comes. The teens leave Nanna’s boot camp endowed with knowledge about the creek, fishing, boots and the seasons.

Nanna’s Boot Camp is written in simple language and is a simple story to follow. There were moments in the story where I wanted to know even more about the traditions of the land, but this is a great entry-level text to expose children to the wonders of living off the land and the traditions that go with it. Nanna is a strong character and her presence is felt, driving the book with an equally strong Indigenous storytelling element that is brought to life with Vicki Griffin’s colourful and dynamic illustrations.


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