Yahoo Creek: An Australian Mystery – Tohby Riddle

Short-listed for the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

Children’s Book Council of Australia 2020 Awards

Have you heard of the Yeti? Or the Sasquatch?  How about Big-Foot? 

Throughout the world, different cultures tell us stories of large ape-like creatures that live only in the darkest spaces and keep themselves apart from humans.  Many Australian Aboriginal cultures tell stories of a hairy man and the names differ depending from which culture they come from, but the name can usually be translated back to ‘hairy man’.  Yahoo Creek: An Australian Mystery tells the story of the Yahoo from the point of view of early European colonists and of Ngiyampaa Elder Peter Williams, giving an Aboriginal perspective to the story.

Link to Catalogue record for Yahoo Creek: an Australian Mystery

Yahoo Creek: An Australian Mystery is a truly extraordinary book.  It is an amazing non-fiction picture book that delves deep into the psyche of early colonists and their relationship with the Australian bush.  Told entirely using early newspaper extracts dating from 1835, this book is unique.  The newspaper excerpts give the reader a feeling of the mystique that the Australian bush held for earlier settlers.  There is a darkness and a foreboding quality to the bush that is expressed not only through the particular newspaper passages chosen by Riddle, but also through the outstanding illustrations provided by the Author.

The illustrations in Yahoo Creek: An Australian Mystery take inspiration from photographs and painters working at that time.  The works of Frederick McCubbin that show early colonialists and their relationship to the Australian bush were a major influence for Riddle:

His bush was often the setting for human scenes of loneliness and isolation…This ‘bush of the imagination’ struck me as the kind of terrain a shadowy hairy man might emerge from – into the colonial consciousness!

Riddle tempers the story as told through the old newspaper excerpts through the provision of an Indigenous point of view coming from Ngiyampaa Elder, Peter Williams.  By offering traditional Aboriginal knowledge about the hairy man, the mystery is enhanced.  Aboriginal people have been seeing hairy men for millennia, does that give the eye-witness reports from early colonialist credence?

Yahoo Creek: An Australian Mystery is an marvelous and entirely fascinating non-fiction book.  It will begin conversations about history, myth, culture and story-telling. It is utterly absorbing and thought provoking. 

It will send tingles down your spine and leave you wondering about the hairy man.

Please read this book.