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3.50  ·  Rating details ·  1,976 ratings  ·  195 reviews
A plane crashes in the vast Northern Territory of Australia,
and the only survivors are two children from Charleston, South Carolina, on their way to visit their uncle in Adelaide. Mary and her younger brother Peter set out on foot, lost in the vast, hot Australian outback. They are saved by a chance meeting with an Aboriginal boy on walkabout, who teaches them to find food
Paperback, 128 pages
Published January 2nd 1979 by Puffin (first published January 1st 1959)
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Ilsa Bick The book is completely different from the film; in some ways, the film only borrows a few elements: the children, the Aboriginal boy, and Australia.…moreThe book is completely different from the film; in some ways, the film only borrows a few elements: the children, the Aboriginal boy, and Australia. The kids are stranded because of a plane crash not a father's suicide, and the end is also wildly divergent. The book is wonderful as is the film (if you're into that particular kind of nihilism). Go enjoy the book; it's a little-known classic. Might be too simplistic for an adult reader, but you might still like it.(less)
Ilsa Bick You mean, like the film? Completely different, but it's still disturbing. The book is really much more about white anxieties about blacks and the…moreYou mean, like the film? Completely different, but it's still disturbing. The book is really much more about white anxieties about blacks and the collision of cultures than it is about the deadening effects of civilization (which is the film's primary concern).(less)

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 ·  1,976 ratings  ·  195 reviews

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School required reading. Which is surprisingly engrossing.

I'm going to be honest here, I actually did enjoy this quite a lot. I know, for some people reading for school makes a book less fun for them because of all the analyzing every little thing, quizzes on every chapter etc etc, but for me when my teacher explains all those little things about the book, it's actually interesting. I like it when my teachers ask us those "pointless" questions about the book and I absolutely love answering the
Jan 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel was written by Donald G. Payne by 1959, who used the pseudonym James Vance Marshall, in honor of a man who lived in the outback of Australia and collaborated with Payne in its creation. Walkabout did not receive much attention until 1971, after a movie based on the book, but not faithful to it, was released, to critical acclaim.

Eleven year old Mary and her eight year old brother Peter are residents of Charleston, South Carolina who find themselves stranded after their Adelaide-bound
Now when we read James Vance Marshall's 1959 novel Walkabout (which original title seems to simply have been The Children) in the spring of 1980 for grade seven English, most of our in-class debates of course generally and I believe also quite naturally dealt with and centred mostly on the often casual and seemingly acceptable paternalism and racism depicted by the author and that especially Mary was often absolutely presented as the epitome and standard of the former (and that despite the ...more
Rebecca McNutt
With themes of nature and survival, this book set in the Australian outback is both vivid and intense, and as the two stranded siblings start to trust their new friend, it becomes a story about friendship and growing up.
Bob Lopez
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s a harrowing narrative as you’d expect but the real treasure of the book is the descriptions of Australia and the wildlife—evocative and casually precise, you’d think he’d get repetitive talking about how hot it was in the outback but nope! It was a beautiful portrait of a harsh but vibrant landscape.
Dec 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Walkabout was the very first book I was ever assigned for school. I remember very little of the discussions my class had about the book, but vividly recall almost every page of the book itself.

I'm surprised at people saying nothing happens in the book because in my mind, each plot point and each detail of Peter and Mary's interactions with the bush boy stand out clearly even 17-18 years after I read it: Mary clucking like a mother hen around Peter, the bush boy teaching the city kids to get
Karen Witzler
Read in the early Seventies. I love the Nicolas Roeg film, too, even though it changes some plot essentials.
Jul 06, 2014 rated it liked it
5/7 - This was a set book for literature in about Year 9. Thinking about it now, over a decade later, after only reading it that one time, I'm surprised at how many details of the plot I remember. I didn't love it or hate it, landing at either end of the rating scale usually being the best way to make a book memorable. The 'just okay' books, of which Walkabout was one (from what I remember) tend to be the ones I forget. I'm interested to see if I get more out of this than I did as a 15-year-old. ...more
Apr 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not entirely sure why I read this book. Maybe because it was reissued by NYRB, and I find it difficult to pass up their titles used? I bought this book at Barnes & Noble. If you live in the Twin Cities and find yourself in possession of a Barnes & Noble giftcard, I highly recommend checking out the HarMar location. They have used books! Wonderful, glorious used books. Not the best selection and not particularly well-priced, but used books nonetheless. Walking in to HarMar it's fun to ...more
Oct 14, 2004 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014

Walkabout is a story of diversity, three children's experience of life through great diversity - culturally, environmentally, racially and rite of passage, death is also addressed.

The arid desolate, barren land of Australia's Northern Territory is vividly described explaining the difficult surrounding Mary and Peter contended with, while bush boy was one with nature, again contrasts tying the story together.

"Sturt Plain, where the aircraft had crashed, is in the centre of the Northern
Dec 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british, nyrb
This was a lovely transport to somewhere new and unexpected, the writing is effective, the setting well-described, and the story comfortingly linear. But there is a seam of racism that grows deeper than the language ("darkie" and "pickaninny" are troublesome, to say the least). The author acknowledges a difference in cultural interpretations that describes each character's actions, perhaps the author's effort to disrupt racist stereotyping, but it all lays on a foundation of salvation from the ...more
Brother and sister were products of the highest strata of humanity's evolution. In them the primitive had long ago been swept aside, been submerged by mechanization, been swamped by scientific development, been nullified by the standardized pattern of the white man's way of life...It was very different with the Aboriginal. He knew what reality was. He led a way of life that was already old when Tut-ankh-amen started to build his tomb.
(Walkabout, pp. 25-26)

Noble savage sacrifices self to save
Ali Adenwala
Jan 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
This was a short, mildly enjoyable book. Throughout most of the story almost nothing happens, except for the death of the bush boy, and it continues that way until the end of the book. The first half was thoroughly captivating but along the way it got way too repetitive in its descriptions of the Australian outback (though very well written), and it didn’t really feel like it was going anywhere. It had a good message about cultural differences and acceptance but Marshal could have taken it a bit ...more
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought I had read this as a child or teenager, but I had a clear idea of the ending that turned out to be wrong, so I must have misunderstood what happened at the end when I was younger. I knew two children were alone in the desert of central Australia because of a plane crash. Anyway, that's how it starts and fortunately for them they meet a native Australian boy on walkabout who helps them find water and food.

However, it's not a sunny little story of how kids are blind to racial
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, australia
Five stars for the description of Australian landscapes, flora, and fauna, one star for frequent use of the word "darky"...

I'm being glib, but I do think this little novel is a good example of why we need diverse authors to tell diverse stories. I'm not sure that the middle-aged Englishman who wrote this novel really firmly grasps or can express the inner life of preadolescent girls from the American south, and I know for darn sure he doesn't know much about Aboriginal Australians. I found
Jackie (Farm Lane Books)
Apr 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Walkabout is a classic book about two American children who become stranded in the Australian outback after a plane crash. They are rescued by an Aboriginal boy who teaches them how to survive in this difficult climate. It is a short, easy read that is written for children, but I think this powerful book deserves an adult audience too.

Walkabout was first published in 1959. It reads like an Australian classic, but was actually written by an English author who spent time studying the country. The
J.M. Hushour
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"He knew what reality was."

On the surface, "Walkabout" begins as standard mid-century fare: a kind of children's adventure story with a little racism thrown in for good measure, the kind of "Boy's Life" kind of shit where Timmy saves Jefferson Swaying-Branch from the mean kids beating him up because he's Injun or whatever. But this novel makes certain that you understand that is something else completely different than what you thought it was when you started it.
Two white kids from South
Jan 24, 2012 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Had never heard of this novel until reading review in NYRB, which I gather is actually the Intro to new NYRB edition. Siegel's intro also comments on a film version of the novel, which, though it sounds interesting in its own right, departs in some significant ways from the book (but then, don't they all ... or most) but that difference only highlighted the appeal of the novel. Sounds like another literary resurrection from NYRB worthy of our celebration and gratitude (and another cool cover, ...more
Sep 21, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Lovely idea of children rescued in the Australian Bush by Aboriginal boy. But very dated writing--very patronizing towards the boy, very ridiculously English "American" children, and very romanticized version of children and Australia both. The book wants to be a psychological study, a travel guide, an allegory, and a moral fable. The best parts are when it just wants to be a story. There aren't enough of those.
This was a very enjoyable read. There were so many life lessons in such a small book. Language and race is only a problem when one allows it to be a problem. When one is taught that it is a problem. One must learn for themselves the meaning of what life is supposed to be. When this is done, only then will unity, love and peace exist.
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My first introduction to Aboriginal culture and Australia in general. I first picked this book up in the 4th grade and have very fond memories of reading it 5 times. That's how spellbound I became with this book and till today though I look at it with new eyes and understanding, it yet still holds a fond place in my heart.
Oct 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Good read for children.
Concise yet there is a lot of detail about their surroundings and the characters are very believable. Their dialogue, actions and reactions are age appropriate and culturally realistic.
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book very much. My favorite part was when Mary realized that race shouldn't divide us, that we're all human, and our souls are all equal. I also liked the brotherly relationship between Peter and the aborigine boy, and the wonderful descriptions of the Australian outback. One thing I was dissatisfied with, is that we never learned the boy's name. I think that even if the older kids didn't care about introductions, the inquisitive Peter should have thought of it. I was sad about ...more
Aug 15, 2019 marked it as sony-or-android  ·  review of another edition
I always meant to read this when I was a kid but then forgot about it. Not entirely; I was reminded when I read the most excellent Tracks: A Woman's Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback for example. But somehow I never found it again.

Judging by reviews, I don't have high expectations. But I do want to cross it off the list of "titles that have been niggling at me for decades." It's on so I'll get to it one of these days....
Judith Johnson
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Continuing my Australian reading kicked off by Ruth Park and D'Arcy Niland. Fascinating story, and makes me want to learn more about Aboriginal culture. Published originally in 1959 so of course the language regarding 'darkies' represents attitudes then. I will try and search some literature out now written by Aboriginal heritage authors. Incidentally, I recall the film had a very different slant. How writers must hate their work being fiddled around with!
Debbie Kinsella
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved it, a heart warming story about the lives and trails of two children in the outback after their plane crashes and they are the soul survivors
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I think it's unlikely such a book would be written today. (view spoiler)

It's obvious the author knew Australia very well, and amazing how much description he managed to cram into such a short book, without it feeling intrusive. Instead, it's almost as if the children themselves are turning their heads,
Austen to Zafón
Interesting premise: After a small-plane crash in the Australian bush, the pilot and co-pilot die leaving only the passengers: a boy, Peter, age 9 and his sister Mary, age 14. After witnessing the death of both adults, eating the only food they have (a barley sugar stick), and drinking from a gully, they decide they must head for their original destination, Adelaide, where an uncle lives. Soon they realize that it's a lot further than they thought and that they have no idea how to survive. Enter ...more
Aug 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
I realize this book was written in the '50s, but damn it's uncomfortably racist and sexist. The copy I read was the movie cover version from 1971 and the tag line on the front reads "the Aborigine and the girl 30,000 years apart...together." Don't be subtle or anything, nope, just get straight to the point--the "bush boy" saving the white kids' asses is just a primitive caveman. There's a sentence in the book along the lines of "the bush boy wasn't used to thinking, just following his instincts" ...more
Jun 25, 2008 rated it it was ok
I don’t like the ending because I feel it leaves you at a point as if it should carry on, as it introduces a whole new event of where they are going to and that maybe they will achieve their goal and then it just stops! It’s left me thinking about what will happen next, but there isn’t a second book in the series, as I would have liked to know whether they achieved their goal of reaching civilisation and finding their uncle. Although on one hand the author lets your own imagination finish the ...more
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Pseudonym of Donald Gordon Payne.
He lives in Surrey, England, and has four sons and one daughter.

The Children, later known as Walkabout, though published under the name James Vance Marshall, was actually written by the English author Donald Gordon Payne as were a number of Payne's later works for children. The Children and other works were apparently based on Marshall's travel notes and diaries,