NIPS XI

Lothian Takeaways, 2001
ISBN: 0 7344 0113 2

If white boys can't jump, can Asian kids play cricket? Lan's fed up with being called a Nip. He wants to be a true-blue Aussie. What better way than by playing the greatest Anglo game of them all?

Lan gathers a team together and defiantly gives it a name: NIPS XI. Now all they have to do is get some equipment, find a coach, get themselves a sponsor and learn the rules of the game. Then it's time to challenge the best cricket team in the district.

A funny, empowering story of cricket and curry, spinners and leggies, NIPS XI is about overcoming cultural barriers, in sport and in life.

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Prizes and Awards:

  • Honour Book, UNESCO Children's Literature Prize (2002)
  • Honour Book, Children's Book Council of Australia (2001)
  • Shortlisted, National Festival Awards for Children's Literature (2002)
  • Shortlisted, KOALA Awards (2002)
  • Shortlisted, YABBA Children's Choice Award (2001, 2002)

Also in this series: 

A review of NIPS XI
by Zach Mackey, 9, of Bellvue Hill, NSW
taken from The Sydney Morning Herald Weekend Edition, May 17-18, 2003

It's about this boy who is Vietnamese and he wants to join the cricket team, so he goes to try out with some friends, but they're all hopeless. They are all not Australian but they live here. 

They make a team and they practise and challenge the state champions. I like the character Lan, because he's this hopeless cricket player but then he turns into this cricket freak and just tries and tries and tries. The Australians don't like him at the start, they call him a Nip and they don't really accept him.

If you read it, you know why it got short listed for the book awards. It's a really good book.

oOo

Ruth on writing NIPS XI

In this article, first published in Viewpoint in March 2001, Ruth talks about how she came to write NIPS XI.                                     

One of my summer writing tasks was to revise a textbook on 'Writing a Novel' for TAFE. Under the heading 'character realism' I came across the following: There's no point writing a novel with a volleyball player as a central character if you know very little about volleyball.

Had I heeded the advice, I would never have written NIPS XI. What did I know about cricket? Very little. What did I care about cricket? Less than zero. Such was the level of my alienation that at the very word 'cricket' on the radio one morning in 1999 my arm stretched from the doona to grope for the off-button. Instead, I found myself listening with growing interest to a program about the Australian Cricket Board's attempts to involve ethnic kids in a game which, despite over fifty years of emigration to this country, has remained almost totally Anglo. There's a story here, I thought.

Soon afterwards I happened to be in a primary school with a high enrolment of Greek-Australians. 'Anyone interested in cricket?' I asked one class. Only Paul put up his hand.

He was sort of interested, he said, because one Saturday afternoon his mate next door had invited him to a family barbie after which they'd all played backyard cricket.

It was Paul's first crack at the game and he'd enjoyed it so much that the following day he'd started watching a match on TV. But then, said Paul, his father had walked into the room. 'Turn off that rubbish game,' Dad growled. 'Greeks don't play cricket.' There's definitely a story here, I thought.

No Greeks made it into the book, but I gave Paul's experience to Akram, a boy from an Arabic background, and filled the fledgling cricket team with an ethnically diverse bunch from as far afield as Vietnam, El Salvador and Japan. While the nationalities are largely irrelevant - the problems of assimilation apply to all migrants, as well as their children - it was a challenge to juggle so many characters and make them distinctive and memorable, while representing their varied voices and experiences truthfully and accurately. 

At the same time, I didn't want to bore readers with an earnest, politically correct novel about the 'issue' of multiculturalism. Lan Nguyen, my Vietnamese wannabe-Warnie, has had enough of official multicultural policy. He wants to be accepted as a true-blue Aussie and as he sees it, the fastest and most direct route is through sport.

I threw myself into the essential research which - are you listening, writing students? - is what we authors do if we're planning a novel about a volleyballer or a cricketer and we know nothing about the sport. The novel was finished before the great bookie scandal erupted but the cracks were already visible, and old Spinner, the ex-Test player, is there to remind us of the finer aspects of the game. As for Warnie as a suitable role model - well, Lan's mum always had some worries on that score.

Did I learn to love cricket? Not exactly, but I learnt to understand and appreciate it, which is one of the themes of the novel. The basis of most prejudice is ignorance.

2 comments:

  1. Why specifically did u choose Lan and asian as the main character?... I mean couldn't it have been a latino or american or some other foreign country?

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  2. The story was inspired by Cricket Australia's attempts to get more Asian Australian children playing cricket. All the problems experienced by Lan and his team were identified during these clinics. We don't have many migrants from the USA or Latin America but I did try to give the kids of Nips XI different ethnic backgrounds.

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