One night in the Outback, when it was so dark that the stars looked like pinholes in a black velvet curtain, two bushmen were sitting by their campfire. One was a young bloke, a jackaroo. The other was a drover from out on the red-soil plains. He was pouring tea from the billy. The jackaroo was telling him a tall tale about a fish he had nearly caught. ‘That sounds like something that might happen on Speewah Station,’ the drover said when the story was finished.
Two men, a drover and a jackaroo are yarning over their fire, somewhere deep in the Australian inland, when they are unexpectedly joined by an old swaggie. The old swaggie joins their conversation and the three talk about a big property beyond the black stump and the legendary Crooked Mick. The property, Speewah Station, is enormous, and ‘so far out in the bush the crows fly backwards to keep the dust out of their eyes’. Crooked Mick was so powerful ‘he could split a hardwood log just by looking at it’. As the night progresses, the three men escalate the tales about Crooked Mick until at last the swaggie vanishes into the night, as silently as he arrived. Could he be the ghost of Crooked Mick?
There’s nothing so ‘Australian’ as a yarn from the bush and this one is as tall a tale as they get. Like children trying to outdo one another in the school yard, the men around the fire take turns at expanding on the rumours and stories they’ve heard. The legendary Speewah Station and the even more legendary Crooked Mick grow taller and broader by the second. The tale-telling ceases to be about the subjects and is more an imaginative game as the time progresses. Children will relate to the absurdity of the tall tales and the humour. Many will be inspired to create their own stories about Crooked Mick, or perhaps about their own lives. Great fun. Recommended for readers transitioning from picture books to chapter books.
Crooked MickDave Luckett ill Andrew Joyner
Omnibus Books 2010
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
This book can be purchased online from Fishpond .