Schumann the Shoeman, by John & Stella Danalis

One grey, wintery morning, a shoe factory opened in the town. Before long, everyone was wearing the shoes that spilled from its conveyor belts. The shoes came in just one style – sensible. They came in just one colour – salmon. And they wore out after just one season.

Schumann the shoemaker makes whimsical shoes that are not only works of art, but are also comfortable and long lasting. His customers love him and the shoes he makes. But when a shoe factory opens in town, Schumann’s world changes. Suddenly, everyone is wearing the sensible shoes produced by the factory.

When Schumann leaves the town he moves to a forgotten forest, where his skills are soon once again in demand – making shoes for the animals. He makes shoes for rabbits, flamingos and even elephants – but it is an order from a centipede that really tests his craft.

Schumann the Shoeman is a beautifully wrought fable which contrasts traditional workmanship with modern production and throw-away culture. Schumann’s tale is poignant, blending the humour of his whimsical shoes of all shapes and sizes with the sorrow of the loss of his craft and the silliness of the ironic ending.

Author John Danalis’ clever text is perfectly teamed with illustrations by Stella Danalis, in a collage technique which embodies the book’s message about workmanship.

A lovely offering which will speak to readers of all ages.

Schumann the Shoeman

Schumann the Shoeman, by John & Stella Danalis
UQP, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Riding the Black Cockatoo, by John Danalis

‘Well; I grew up with an Aboriginal skull on my mantelpiece.’
I said the words with a sort of worldly swagger, somehow expecting the announcement to impress my younger classmates. I might as well have unzipped my pants and flopped my penis on the table – everyone turned and stared at me with a mixture of incredulousness, disgust and horror. My worldliness withered.

As a child, John Danalis never stopped to consider why an Aboriginal skull was a fixture on his family’s mantelpiece, or even why it was considered okay to display a person’s remains in this way. But, as an adult, when he shared this piece of his past, his classmate’s reactions lead him to thinking about where the skull, which his family had named ‘Mary’, came from, and where it should now go.

In the weeks following this event, Danalis set about answering these questions, in an emotional journey which ultimately led to the skull being handed over to be returned to Mary’s country.

Riding the Black Cockatoo is a true story of one man’s journey to understanding not just a part of his own family’s story, but the story of Aboriginal people around Australia. Danalis admits to not knowing, or even having spoken with, Aboriginal people, before he began the quest to return Mary to his rightful home. But, in the process of returning Mary, Danalis is forced to explore both his own preconceptions and Australia’s history, which proves both confronting and very disturbing.

Riding the Black Cockatoo is an important book, which should be read by all Australians for a greater understanding of our history and our culture.

Riding the Black Cockatoo

Riding the Black Cockatoo, by John Danalis
Allen & Unwin, 2009

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.