Friday 27 July 2012


 Darth by Julieann Wallace, illustrated by Claire and Julieann Wallace (Little Steps Publishing)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9780980723786
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

This book, for children aged 6-9, opens with a ‘missing poster’ about Darth, baby of the family who lives in ’Row J, Tank 3, Captain Hook’s Fish ’r’ Us’. Suspicious circumstance of being last seen with a net, plastic bag of water and rubber band lurking by sets the scene for the actual story that follows. The story tells how, while playing with his friends, Darth is captured.

The story immediately has Darth being dive bombed into an unfamiliar world. He is, however, quickly taken in by the new surrounds, ‘Cool! This is a groovy kind of place!’  This soon changes when he meets a local gang who tell him he does not belong, because he is different. He can’t understand ‘how the fish could hate him when they didn’t know him. It wasn’t fair.’

In his memory, Mum’s voice says, ‘Use the power of kindness! Be kind, smile! Play some games.’  Darth seeks out the gang. When they tell him to go away he asks why they think he is different. They try to leave but Darth blocks their way forcing them to reveal that it’s his double tail they dislike. Being single-tailed means they swim slower. Slyly, they invite him to the sunken ship at midnight. Darth doesn’t want to go. It’s scary and unsafe, but he does go.

Once there, Darth reveals a toy which the others find fun and they all play nicely. The next day Darth meets them, saying, ‘Let’s go to the bubblespa. I know a fun game. Be there or be square!’  The gang happily follows. While playing, ‘Darth realised something amazing. If you give out happiness, it comes right back to you.’  Suddenly, Darth’s whole family are plunged into the tank.

Turning the page reveals a poster announcing Darth has been found and the page directly opposite, titled ‘The Bag of Happiness’  includes Darth’s tips about what readers can do to feel happy inside. Vivid watercolour illustrations excellently capture character and their emotions in each scene, giving readers much to peruse, enjoy and discuss, over and again.

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