A really interesting picture book made its way onto my review pile recently. It combines a simple story with the cultural heritage of the Papua New Guinea tribes. The Lost Tail is written by Patricia Bernard and illustrated by Tricia Oktober.
This picture book is set against the backdrop of the Goroka Show, a yearly tribal cultural festival in Papua New Guinea. Each year, tribes from across the country come together to celebrate their culture with displays of music, dance and rituals. Nura is a young boy and a member of the Bundi Boys dance group that is going to attend the Goroka Show and perform their snake dance. As the smallest member of the group, Naru holds up the tail of the long back snake made of straw and cloth that they use in the dance.
The Lost Tail tells the story of Naru’s journey to the festival, and then of how he loses and finds the rest of the group at the Show… just in time for their performance. It’s a very simple story, but one that allows for the inclusion of much cultural detail. As Naru travels to the Show, he remembers his mother’s words, telling him about his tribe’s mythology. And when he is lost at the Show, he encounters many other people, thus introducing the reader to ghost dancers, chicken dancers, warriors and beauty queens. This story is a journey of discovery for the reader.
Bernard’s words are straightforward and to the point. Oktober’s illustrations are lovely and colourful. They work well together.
The back cover includes a bit of information about the Goroka Show, but not nearly enough. I was left wanting to know more about the Show and about the tribes of Papua New Guinea. I think the book would have benefited from a page or two of non-fiction at the end.
Young kids are likely to enjoy the simple story and colourful pictures, but there is also material for older readers to dwell on.
Catch ya later, George
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