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BOOK REVIEW: Yahoo Creek by Tohby Riddle

| 15 March 2019 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Yahoo Creek by Tohby Riddle

Allen & Unwin
March 2019
Hardcover, $29.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Picture Books / Australian Culture / Aboriginal




Luminous images accompanied by newspaper extracts dating back to the early 1800s and words by Ngiyampaa Elder Peter Williams explore the ongoing mystery of yahoo encounters.

‘He was surprised to observe a hairy human form, about seven feet in height, walking in the bush.’ Queanbeyan Age, 24 August 1886

Throughout the first century or so of Australian settlement by Europeans, the pages of colonial newspapers were haunted by reports of a bewildering phenomenon: the mysterious yahoo or hairy man …

But what was it?

Yahoo Creek breathes life into this little-known piece of Australian history – which, by many accounts, is a history still in the making.


I have met men (and reliable men at that) who unhesitatingly assert that they had seen this hairy man-shaped animal at short distances.

They were so terrified at the apparition and the hideous noise it made when it saw them that they left their work as timber-getters, and at once cleared out from the locality, leaving tools and work done behind them.

The description of this animal, seen at different times by different people … invariably coincided.

Bombala Times
15 November 1912

Tohby Riddle has applied the fantastic artwork we’ve come to expect to fascinating newspaper articles from the 1800’s and early 1900’s, which seemed to be rife with mentions of “yahoos” and “hairy men”. Though not a narrative story or a picture book of the “told entirely through pictures” varitey, the overall collections of snapshots does paint a fascinating canvas.

Resident of the ‘Bar’ have been disturbed from their slumbers by noises, resembling at times a person choking, and at others a woman screaming and then crying … Several persons … were astonished to see a peculiar animal … standing on his two legs, and at the same time brushing away with his claw-like hands the long unkempt looking hair from his eyes. The animal is covered with long white hair and when seen was uttering the cries which have been disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood.

Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative
17 June 1909

The articles jump backwards and forwards in time showing that, while there does seem to be a common theme throughout (suggesting these were real sightings of a real mythical Australian beastie), people were no closer to solving the mystery of these beings in 1932 than they were in 1866. Areas of the Great Dividing Range are still largely inaccessible and could still be home to this mysterious part of Australian history.

‘These stories are not my stories or your stories, they’re our stories. Anyone born in Australia, whether they are Aboriginal or not, is born for the lore of this country.’

Peter Williams, Ngiyampaa Elder
North West NSW

All in all, a fascinating book, best shared with readers upwards of around five-years-old who will be able to understand that this isn’t a narrative picture book, and get caught up in the mystery of our country’s past and potential present.

The newspaper clippings of additional sightings lining the inside of the cover are a very nice touch to fully round out the package.


Category: Book Reviews

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