Books & Literature

Book Review: The Shop Train, by Josie Wowolla, illustrated by Paul Seden

CHILDREN’S BOOK: The Shop Train is a heartwarming story about Rosie and her mum, and the rickety journey in their old car to pick up stores from the shop train.

A lovely look back in time to when outback communities relied on a train to bring them everything they needed.

We respectfully caution Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers that this review contains mention of people who have passed away.

As a young girl, Josie Wowalla, a Wonghi Elder from Western Australia, travelled with her mum in their old car to pick up stores from the shop train. This story is inspired by the Tea and Sugar Train which travelled between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie from 1917 to 1996. Each week it carried supplies to railway workers and people who lived in remote communities. The Shop Train had a clothes shop, food shop, greengrocer, butcher and hairdresser. Mail was also delivered.

The pencil illustrations by Paul Seden, from the Wuthathi and Muralag people of North Queensland, give the reader a real sense of the vastness of the landscape. With the low scrub, flat plains, and Australian animals dotted around, it is difficult to imagine anyone living there. But The Shop Train shows us that there are many communities thriving in isolation who relied heavily on the weekly train not just for supplies, but meeting up with friends.  

The illustrations show the people dwarfed by the train which was their lifeline. We are able to understand the effort it would have been to travel each week to meet the train, over river beds and bumpy roads which may or may not have even been passable at certain times of the year.

The joy of meeting the train, their friends, and then arriving home with their supplies is evident in both the text and illustrations. The lovely ending shows us how the young girl’s resourceful mum dealt with food bags breaking on the long journey home.

Those lucky enough to have travelled across the Nullarbor Desert by train will understand the vast distance the Tea and Sugar train travelled once a week and how important it must have been for those who relied on it for their supplies.

The book is dedicated to the memory of Josie Wowalla who travelled on the Tea and Sugar train as a child.  

Having had the opportunity to travel on the Tea and Sugar Train over 45 years ago to perform plays for the children of these outback communities, The Shop Train brought back lots of wonderful memories.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Magabala Books
Released: July 2022
RRP: $24.99

More News

To Top