Mum is making cupcakes while Erica watches a movie on TV. Dad is out hunting pigs and magpie geese for them to eat. Just another day in the Tiwi Islands. Dad brings home a baby buffalo, when what Erica really wants is a puppy. Shallow the water buffalo wrecks a paddling pool, a trampoline and a footy (helped by Erica’s friend’s dog Bruno). Everyone in the community is mad at them, and Erica as well. How will she prove that she can really look after a pet?
The workshopping of story by multiple child authors is evident in every plot twist, but Jared Thomas has stitched it all together into an engaging story. Erica’s adventures reflect the lived experience of the authors in easy-to-read chapters and make this tale of ordinary life in the Tiwi Islands accessible to all readers. Tiwi Language is used in italics throughout, and the context will help readers to understand their meaning, eg ‘Nimpangi’ obviously means ‘Goodbye’.
As a narrator, Erica conveys the longing that every child can relate to - for a pet to love - and the realities of actual animal ownership. Badimaya Yamatji/African American academic Kirsten Hausia talks about books like these as featuring everyday characters. Erica’s home, community and school are not presented as exotic.
Tiwi Island art is evoked on the cover and on the endpapers, but the main text’s illustrations are generically child-like to scaffold emerging readers. The drawing of Shallow almost ruining the footy Grand Final by popping the ball with her horns is hilariously evocative of the action. The chapters are short and the print size is appropriate for the emerging and newly confident readers.
This book is a product of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation’s Create Initiative, with Jared Thomas mentoring the writing of primary school students at Tiwi College.
Additional information is given at the back of the book including the geographical location of the Tiwi Islands and information about Tiwi College; the Indigenous Literacy Foundation; and a biographical profile of Jared Thomas. No pronounciation guide is given for the Tiwi language.