Ubby’s Underdogs: The Legend of the Phoenix Dragon

Brenton E. McKenna, Banjo Woorunmurra

Ubby's Underdogs: The Legend of the Phoenix Dragon
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Ubby’s Underdogs: The Legend of the Phoenix Dragon

Brenton E. McKenna, Banjo Woorunmurra

It is the late 1940s and Broome, a small pearling town in the heart of an ancient land, is still recovering from WW11. Ubby, a smart, street-wise Aboriginal girl, is the leader of a small rag-tag gang known as the ‘Underdogs'. Trying to make a name for the Underdogs, she meets Sai Fong, a Chinese girl just off the boat from Shanghai. From the moment Ubby and Sai Fong meet, their worlds collide as they find themselves thrown into a series of bizarre adventures full of myths and legends and everything from ancient mechanical demons to fantastic beasts - and secrets never before exposed.

This is an epic tale that measures the limits of courage and friendship. Ubby’s Underdogs: The Legend of the Phoenix Dragon is storytelling on a grand scale that pulls its central characters from the unique multicultural town of Broome. It expertly draws in characters that have links to other worlds amidst a complex backdrop of Aboriginal and Chinese mythology (fictionalised). The Legend of the Phoenix Dragon is the first in the Ubby’s Underdogs trilogy.

Review

When the pearling industry was at its peak in the 1940s, the streets of Broome were home to those from all walks of life: the Japanese pearl divers, the wealthy English businessmen, and people like Ubby – a young, streetwise Aboriginal girl and her band of ragtag Underdogs.

When the Underdogs first meet Sai Fong, she’s fresh off the boat from China and doesn’t quite get the hectic way of life in Broome. Ubby steps in to save her from being pushed around by Ling, the self-elected boss of the Chinese girls, and she’s welcomed into the Underdogs’ ranks. Being part of a gang means she must defend it, and when the sons of the wealthy pearl merchants who call themselves the Pearl Juniors challenge the Underdogs to a game of Gaelic football, Sai Fong must learn the rules quickly or suffer the shame of defeat. After Sai Fong is pushed to the limits by the Pearl Juniors’ cheating ways, the Underdogs discover that there’s something special about their newest recruit.

Ubby’s Underdogs has to be one of the most original graphic novels I’ve ever read. The skilful blend of Australian history and Asian mythology results in a vivid world where dragons, ancient war machines and magic powers are commonplace. Brenton McKenna both wrote and illustrated this standout graphic novel, and was influenced by his own childhood in Broome and his Malaysian and Aboriginal heritage. The huge cast of colourful characters will have you laughing out loud as they struggle to defend their gang and forge new friendships, all while putting a stop to dark forces.

This first book in a highly original new series is definitely one to check out, and will be devoured by readers aged nine and up.

ubby

A scene from Ubby’s Underdogs

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