Published by the National Library of Australia (1984) this is one of the few known picture books created by Harry Reade. Delightfully illustrated, its message is that of tolerance and understanding amongst people of different races and origins. It’s about living side-by-side geographically yet inhabiting completely different realities.
This rhyming picture book has incredible wit and humour which Reade was famous for. It’s an Australian story of a little white boy (Billy) and a black indigenous boy (Nemulak) who meet out in the world one day. Nemulak asks Billy to stay and play with him. The white boy said:
"I'm Billy, and, I'd like to play it's true, But I am white and you are black I cannot play with you." "That's not your fault." said Nemaluk And eyed him up and down "Besides, it's sad, but I'm not black Just instant-coffee brown." "And as for you - you say you're white?" The dark-skinned youngster said "Except for piebald splotchy bits, You're very, very, RED!'
Their playful banter continues as Billy realises he is not exactly white but many shades of colour, as Namaluk points out “You’re white, you’re red, you’re brown…Whitefellers are like traffic lights…”
They end up rolling around laughing and playing together. The final verse sums up the lesson of this story:
And sometimes when the other kids Play marbles or fly kites Young Billy by a mirror stands And plays at "traffic lights" For he has learned that brotherhood Is friendship's other name Though all of us are different We are also all the same.
It’s a shame this book is no longer in print, its humour and message of friendship and harmony despite our differences is one that children of all ages can relate to.
As it is out of print and hard to come by I’ve reproduced it below in its entirety. Enjoy its clever rhymes, gorgeous pictures and a wonderful message.
To read more about this creator, his other books and art click here.