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The Lost Tail

By Patricia Bernard & Tricia Oktober

(3 customer reviews)


The Bundi Boys dance group will perform their snake dance in the dance competition at the Goroka Show. Little Nura will carry the snake’s tail in the dance, but what happens when the snake loses its tail?

About the Goroka Show:
Each year, groups from all over Papua New Guinea take part in the Goroka Show. This colourful cultural gathering attracts thousands of participants in a celebration of Papua New Guinea’s diverse tribal rituals, talents, music and dances.

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3 reviews for The Lost Tail

  1. Barbara Braxton

    Today is the day! It has arrived! The day the Bundi Boys go to the Goroka Show where they will perform their snake dance, along with thousands of other participants wearing their traditional costumes and sharing their dances and rituals at this annual gathering. But there is no hopping in a car for them – it’s a long and arduous five day trek through jungles and rivers and over mountains, while watching out for angry cassowaries and wild pigs, and a host of other hazards, particularly the red-skinned poroi hana spirits, because Goroka is in the remote Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

    Nura’s job is to carry the snake’s tail in this traditional warriors’ dance, but when they finally arrive at Goroka, he is so exhausted he falls asleep, waking much later than he wanted and finding his friends gone. How will he find them amongst this large, colourful festival which attracts tribespeople from all over the region, all decked in their most garish feathered finery? Nobody he asks has seen them… where is that elusive snake’s tail? Will the Bundi Boys be able to dance for the judges if he is not there?

    This is the most beautiful book which works on so many levels. Patricia Bernard always writes an engaging tale (if you’re not familiar with Duffy, Everyone’s Dog, seek it out), against an authentic backdrop
    of a country which is Australia’s nearest neighbour yet so little is known. You feel Nura’s concern as he goes from group to group, reminding himself of his mother’s words that Bundi warriors never give up. And then there is the lusciousness of Tricia Oktober’s illustrations – so bright and colourful and so realistic that they just leap out of the page. (She is among a tiny group of my favourite illustrators.) She was an inspired choice and just exactly what this text needed.

    Whether read aloud or read alone this is a book of such richness, there is something new to be discovered and explored from Kindergarten to Year 6. You can’t ask for much more than that.

  2. Anastasia Gonis

    Illustrator Tricia Oktober has done an incredible job of illustrating the detailed features of the characters in The Lost Tail. Their eyes seem to peer at the reader from the page. She has brought the story to life using vibrant colours to depict the flora and fauna of the forests, and to accentuate the face and body painting, masks and head dresses, and traditional costumes. What can one address first in this exceptional book which concentrates on bringing into focus the traditions and customs of Papua New Guinea?

    The Bundi Boys have set out on a five day walk from their village to Goroka (which is the capital of the Eastern Highlands Province of PNG) and the dance festival there. They want to win the competition with their snake dance. Alfred, the tallest, carries the head of the snake. The others support the body. Nura hears his mother’s voice saying, ‘you are very important. You carry the snake’s tail’.

    The boys have been made aware of the dangers they may encounter, but Nura knows that Bundi warriors are never afraid. But after the journey, when sleep overtakes them, Nura awakes to an empty hut, and is filled with fear.

    There is now a snake without a tail carrier and a boy alone amongst crowds. He asks a man with a straw in his nose, the women wearing moss wigs, a group of ghost dancers, and two beauty queens if they’ve seen anything. All say no.

    He passes drummers in blue-striped skirts, chicken dancers, warriors carrying bows and arrows. Suddenly, he sees the tail. He is overjoyed for the Bundi Boys can’t dance without Nura. But can they win the competition?

    This book is beautifully designed by Grant Gittus. The text and illustration have united to provide a spectacular ‘culture tour’ for the reader aged from 5-105 years.

  3. Jenny Mounfield

    Today is very important for Nura and he has a very important job to do. Nura and the Bundi Boys have a five-day walk to Goroka ahead of them carrying the giant snake, which has an important role in the dance festival. Nura is in charge of the tail.

    ‘Nura’s mother has told him all about the journey to Goroka:

    “By day you will walk through the jungle, climb high mountains and slide into steep valleys. You must watch out for angry cassowaries and wild pigs.”’

    Finally arriving at Goroka, an exhausted Nura falls asleep atop the snake’s tail and dreams of winning the dance prize. When he wakes, however, the Bundi Boys and the snake are nowhere to be seen.

    The Lost Tail provides a valuable and entertaining window into the colourful culture of Papua New Guinea. The simple story of a boy almost missing out on his special day is one that children everywhere will identify with. Having written over forty books, the well-travelled Bernard writes in a clear, easy-to-read style that leaves no room for young minds to wander.

    Aussie artist, Oktober’s detailed illustrations provide plenty of fuel for classroom discussion. Her work has been exhibited around the world, winning her both acclaim and awards.

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