Leonie Norrington writes with a strong sense of place. In this book we are introduced to the remote community in which the characters live. The main focus is on Dale, whose grandfather was one of the first white settlers in the area and Dale’s best friend, Tomias, whose family are the traditional owners of the land. Dale is the more inclined to challenge rules and Tomias often has to provide a steadying influence. Nonetheless, the book starts with the two boys wagging school from a classroom overseen by Miss Wilson, a somewhat rigid teacher who is unable to adapt to the different needs of children in such a remote school. The adventures the boys get into are very much tied up with the countryside – getting caught in the middle of a burn-off, for example.
The Armstrong family who are newcomers to the remote settlement have real trouble fitting in, although Mr Armstrong is the new ‘boss’. The relationship between Dale, his younger brother Jimmy, Tomias and Gordon Armstrong who starts at the local school provides some of the tension in the plot while also providing some of the moments of humour.
Indigenous knowledge is celebrated throughout the book and often provides a means for the plot to develop. In addition, the complexities of Indigenous relationship systems are recognised. At the end of the book Dale and Tomias are at the end of the available schooling in this remote community meaning they will have go away for further schooling thus establishing the link to later books in the Barrumbi series.
The book was Shortlisted for NSW Premier's Literary Award Patricia Wrightson Prize 2003 and Children's Book Council of Australia Awards: Book of the Year - Young Readers 2003.
Throughout the book there are words in Mayali and a glossary is provided at the end that translates these words into English.
Leonie Norrington is not Indigenous herself but grew up in a remote Indigenous community, rather like Dale in the Barrumbi books.
Series: Barrumbi Kids series : Book 1