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Cheeky Dogs: To Lake Nash and Back (Dion Beasley & Johanna Bell, A&U)

Dion Beasley’s illustrated memoir details his early life moving between a couple of remote communities in the Northern Territory before settling at Tennant Creek. Both profoundly deaf and suffering muscular dystrophy, Dion finds enjoyment and expression in drawing his town, its residents, and the cheeky camp dogs who are always getting into trouble. The language and narrative style of Beasley’s memoir is captivating and, while it takes a few pages to orient yourself within this long picture-book-as-memoir, once you’re used to the style, you can’t put it down. Beasley’s scratchy graffiti-style artwork resembles that of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and I’m not surprised to hear that the fine art world is interested in his work. Cheeky Dogs: To Lake Nash and Back transcends the picture book genre, much in the way that Shaun Tan’s work does. Beasley’s story also presents the rare point of view of a young person’s account of life in a remote community: we see Tennant Creek through his eyes, as someone who spends his days drawing, hanging out with his family, and feeding his favourite camp dogs. Cheeky Dogs is best suited to older readers aged 10–17 and would comfortably sit next to Shaun Tan’s The Arrival.

Cassie Lynch is a Noongar woman, ex-bookseller and current PhD student

 

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