Wednesday 26 June 2013

Review: Larrikin Lane

Mates: Larrikin Lane by Kate Darling, illustrated by Ben Wood (Omnibus Books)
PB RRP $11.99
ISBN 978-1-86291-989-1
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Can you keep a sheep, a goat and plenty of chooks in a suburban back yard? Arkie and her family think so but their neighbour Mr Meyer does not agree, even though it was a farm long before houses were built on the surrounding grazing land. He wants the council to come and do something about the problem. But young Arkie comes up with a plan which may save their animals.

From the title of the book and its fabulous front cover I knew this was going to be a fun read. Larrikin Lane is entertaining with a realistic, engrossing storyline. Delilah the crazy-eyed goat and Lola the sheep – ‘every family needs a black sheep’ Dad says – are great characters. The family, too, are well drawn.

The writing is great and feels very fresh. The old man next door ‘combs his last few hairs across and sticks them down flat on his cranky old head’. Children will love these sorts of descriptions. The font changes occasionally to wobbly, bold, italic, big or small to help emphasise the story. The illustrations also embody this fresh feel, the fun of the story and the rounded characters. They are full colour, amusing and there is much to be seen within them. The borders are great too and it took a few reads before I noticed the gradual change in them from beginning to end.

Larrikin Lane feels very Australian without any of the clich├ęd elements that can often accompany Aussie stories. It is ultimately about making friends and finding new ways around a problem. This is a great addition to Scholastics’ Mates books and, with five fun-filled chapters, it will have newly independent readers gaining confidence in their reading and searching out more from this fantastic series.

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