Boori Pryor is a wonderful storyteller whose ability to weave Indigenous culture into stories for all ages has seen him become one of Australia’s favourite writers for younger readers. In his latest picture book Pryor illustrates how dance is used in Aboriginal culture to pass along ideas, history and warnings. The voice of the narrator seems to speak directly to the reader, which will engage the junior readership that the book is directed towards. Jan Ormerod’s illustrations are a step away from her usual style, transforming the book into a combination of picture book and graphic novel. This format will not appeal to everyone immediately, but does sit snugly with the clarity of the narrative and the educational tone of the book. The illustrations are simple enough that Pryor’s story remains the focus. The key theme of the story is an acceptance of other cultures, and an active participation that leads to greater understanding. Although the language is simple enough for early primary school readers, the topics raised in Shake a Leg could undoubtedly form the basis for school projects and discussions for many older primary readers.
Bec Kavanagh is a Melbourne freelance reviewer and account manager for The Little Bookroom. This review first appeared in the October 2010 issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.
Shake a Leg is the winner of the children’s fiction prize in the 2011 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.