'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 2 July 2010

Review: Dead Man's Gold

Title: Dead Man's Gold

Author: Michael Torres

Illustrator: Sharyn Egan

Publisher: Magabala Books, $19.95 RRP

Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781921248191

For ages: 10 - 13

Type: Novel

About: Written by Michael Torres, himself a keen adventurer, this book tells the tale of an Aboriginal drover who discovers a secret that has been buried for years. It has a parallel narrative, that of a quest to discover buried treasure; and one of ghosts and legends and the importance of letting the dead rest in peace.

Set against a vividly described backdrop of our vast outback, we see our drover Billy Stone travel through No Man’s Gorge to Black Hills Station for a cattle muster. A chance encounter sets him off on a search for buried treasure and following a map to find it. We see the loving relationship with his horse Pindan and share his sorrow when the horse must be put down after it suffers a serious injury.

Torres doesn’t sugarcoat the harshness of life in the outback and it makes for compelling reading. His interactions with characters with the name One Arm Jack allow for the reader to meet some engaging, not always likeable larrikins, and we are positioned to support Billy in his quest to find the treasure.

The mixed media of illustrations that incorporate the use of watercolour, pencil and ink by the talented artist Sharyn Egan enabled the narrative to develop at a quick pace. My son sat entranced with me as I read the story to him and we spent several minutes pouring over her drawings, discussing them as well. She showcases the beauty and harshness of our outback landscape beautifully and her sketches of the characters are truly wonderful.

This story is one of travel, a search for treasure, ghosts, friendship, betrayal and death. Whilst they are heavy themes in many ways, Torres has worked to make them accessible for younger readers. It certainly makes for a good jumping off point for some deeper discussions with children. As well as that it allows for broader exploration of our outback and the wealth of heritage it has for us.

- this review by Sarah Pietrzak

Buy this book online