It was a hair salon day and as usual, I took a book with me – one I’d only unpacked from its box this morning – although I have some others still half-read, because I always love Justin’s writing. And this was no exception – I read it from start to finish with barely any conversation with my stylist. After weeks of scowling in the direction of Year 9 boys, it was so good to read a story about one that is not a complete horror – even if only fictional LOL.
But seriously, in the past week three separate people have asked me for recommendations for teen boys in particular – including those who are either reluctant or not skilful readers – and here is a perfect example of such, and one which excludes no students. There is a significant female character who also happens to be from a different culture, there is some rich unpacking to be done around life in the country (versus life in the suburbs or city), family dramas, surviving crises, support from friends and others and, not least of all, climate change. Coming hot on the heels as it does of our government’s embarrassing presence at COP26 in Glasgow, this will spark intense and profitable discussions with your teens.
Banjo’s parents are doing it tough on their farm because of the ongoing drought, just as many others in their district and beyond are also. Their cattle are already sold off and now it looks like Banjo’s much-loved horse, Milly is next to go. He’s already had to drop out of the basketball team as the petrol costs of running back and forth to town prove difficult, although at least he can still attend Venturers. When Banjo decides to mount a protest against Ride to School Day, in which all the townie kids who ride the bikes will get a free movie pass, he takes Milly almost 30 kms into town to arrive in a different style altogether. However, problems arising from this escalate his statement into more of an escape, until he meets up with teenage conservationist, Mai Le, and suddenly he becomes the youth Eco Warrior riding his faithful horse to Canberra to tell the politicians exactly what he thinks should be happening – before the whole country, indeed the world, goes beyond the point of no return.
This is a well-paced narrative which will appeal across genders and abilities with ease and, given it’s setting and topical focus will also resonate with many. It would as easily make a successful read-aloud as a class novel and will certainly be on the list I am compiling at present for our Head of English. I highly recommend it to you for your readers from around Year 7 upwards. Thanks Justin for another cracking read that will have real impact for our young adult readers.
Australia has more than its fair share of natural disasters. One only has to think about the events of the last week or so with the terrible floods in North Queensland and the raging fires in Tasmania. Arguably one of the very worst of these was the Black Saturday fires in Victoria. Ten years ago the country, and indeed the world, was rocked by the news of the ferociously devastating fires in Victoria which claimed 173 lives, cost millions in damage and untold mental anguish for so many.
Justin D’Ath has drawn on his own experience (losing his home for a start) to create a narrative in which readers can immerse themselves safely while relating and empathising with those caught up in the horror. Homes, possessions, pets….family…..so much at risk and so much loss by so many.
Keelie has not lived in the district long. She and her family re-located from New Zealand and are really still finding their way in their new community and environs. Her dad has done all the right things to safeguard their home but when Mum and little brother have to go to Melbourne on a medical emergency, Keelie is not feeling confident with Dad’s plans. She is quite naturally worried about their home and their safety but her horse is her biggest concern immediately.
When the worst happens and the winds change and the roaring dragon of fire encroaches, Keelie and her dad plus dogs must quickly abandon their home for safety.
This is a gripping tale of courage, friendship, compassion and loss to which young readers will readily connect. We all hope and pray to avoid such terrible and ravaging events but the knowledge that so many are ready to step up and take care of those who are at risk is a reassuring prospect. As Australians I believe we are particularly good at this. We may be offhand and blasé about much but when the worst happens, we rally and support and fight back.
What a fantastic read this is! I highly recommend it to you for readers from around ten years upwards.
*In memory of those who lost their lives and those who fought on to save those they could*
Justin D’Ath seems to have a real gift for exciting adventure stories with tremendous appeal to both boys and girls. This novel is like a blockbuster thriller movie but for young readers and is just fabulous.
Sunday or Sunny suspects nothing more than the usual school assembly as he and his mates stand out in the quadrangle of his International School. In fact, he doesn’t have much on his mind apart from his football and the birthday card he has for his American (girl) friend.
But when your father is the President of African nation Zantuga and you are next in line, there is no telling what might happen.
As the kids all line up there is a sudden commotion when ‘secret service’ guys pop up right next to Sunny and a weird looking baboon jumps on top of the outer wall. Baboons can be dangerous enough but a baboon that carries a photo and has strangely piercing eyes even moreso.
Within the space of breathtaking minutes Sunny finds out both his father and mother have been assassinated and his own life is in danger. It is in fact, the baboon that is meant to be his killer.
Car chases, gun fights and conspiracy follow at rapid pace. It is an odd thing that Sunny and the baboon become companions. Three is not a baboon but a ‘brid’ (hybrid) and to Sunny’s astonishment he can speak and understand humans. With the secret help of his girlfriend who is dealing with conspiracy dealings in her own family, Sunny eventually finds safety and sanctuary and Three, the brid who is as much a victim as anyone else finds peace.
I loved this book. The twists in the plot were believable and exciting. The subtle commentary on politics and backroom deals all too true-to-life and the underlying ethics of animal experimentation are terrific.
My only small complaint has to be the cover art. I’m no artist for sure but felt that the cover does not do the book or its story justice at all. I am urging my girls to ignore the cover and try out the book.
Highly recommended for readers in Upper Primary to Middle Secondary.