The Drover's Boy
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This powerful and unusual picture book ostensibly presents a song about an Australian drover mourning for the death of an Aboriginal employee killed by a bolting horse. The words of the song are printed against a vivid background of wilderness landscapes, haunting portraits and a patchwork of clipped documents related to the exploitation of Aborigines in the Australian cattle industry of the early 20th century. It is only in the last verses of the song that the real relationship of the drover and his 'boy' is hinted at. A fascinating historical endnote clarifies the story, and takes the reader back to the beginning of the book with renewed interest and sympathy. The Drover's Boy provides an excellent integration of history, narrative, illustration and music (the score for the song is provided at the end). Singer/songwriter Ted Egan, who has worked for Aboriginal rights for many years, has dredged a truly memorable tale from one of the oubliettes of our age, and Ingpen's illustrations provide an appropriately poignant and enigmatic accompaniment.