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Prehistory comes vividly to life in this telling of some of the first peoples to arrive on Australian shores. The Yam tribe coexist on Bird Island with two other tribes: the peaceable Crab and the warmongering Crocodiles, aggressive warriors who are determined to destroy the Yam and take over their territory. Eventually the Yam tribe, in fear for their lives, make the terrifying decision to leave their island and set off in search of a new home. The voyage is perilous and the tribe are utterly at the mercy of the ocean. The inevitable deaths are handled by the author with delicate poignancy.
Allan Baillie creates the world and the people of the Yam tribe with depth and realism. The descriptions of the land, the sea, the sky and storms complement the well-paced action of the story. Recognisable human personalities, relationships and foibles abound. The ingenuity of the Yam tribe’s men and women in preparing for and enduring their voyage is remarkably detailed. Bent Beak, aged about 12, narrates the story, in the present tense, and the reader can readily inhabit his world. The dialogue between characters sounds authentic, and moments of wry humour balance others of great drama.