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The Shop Train (Josie Wowolla Boyle, illus by Paul Seden, Magabala) 

With The Shop Train, the late Josie Wowolla Boyle offers a small memory-sketch of the days when the Tea and Sugar train travelled weekly across the Nullarbor to supply food and goods to isolated communities and railway workers. Boyle captures the experience of driving the long, rough terrain to reach the train line with her mother, and the excitement and bustle of people gathering their weekly supplies. The book highlights one particular day when food packages broke on the way home and her mother good-naturedly filtered apart the rice, tea, powdered milk, sugar and other basic supplies in a wooden yandy dish. The light and innocent tones of these very uncomplicated memories (based on Boyle’s own childhood) are complemented by the high-energy movement illustrated in the figures and a nostalgic sepia-toned palette that evokes the dry bush of remote Australia. The authors’ own First Nations identities are represented in the faces of many of the characters but the story isn’t specifically one of Indigenous experience. This is a simple, descriptive story that also includes a brief teachers’ note summarising the details, suggesting that the book could be used in schools as a starting point for conversations about historical experiences in remote Australia. The book is being marketed to lower/middle primary and seems suitable for the younger end of that range.  

Anica Boulanger-Mashberg is a freelance editor, writer, and reviewer, and has worked as a bookseller at The Hobart Bookshop for over 15 years. 


Category: Junior Reviews