Saturday 22 February 2014

Puppy Pie

Puppy Pie by Sam Jasper (Palmer Higgs)
PB RRP $19.95
ISBN – 978-192502777-8
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

The story opens as nine year old city girl Gull joins country cousins one school holidays during hemp harvest time. Someone has just dumped another lot of puppies off to the Hepplewhite’s. That’s what every neighbour does with offspring that are the result of the Hepplewhite’s dog, Useless, impregnating the area's dogs. Gull is horrified at Uncle Harry’s joke about turning them into puppy pie.

The farm’s relying on this hemp crop to clear a huge overdraft. When the hemp lies down, mid-harvest, Uncle Harry thinks it’s his fault that the district’s farmers might lose their crops too. Harry’s wife Helen’s psychic powers seem to be draining her more than usual and she keeps falling asleep. With the help of Shirley, a CWA neighbour, Gull and cousins hide Helen’s ‘sleeping sickness’ from Harry because he has enough to worry about.

They send her to stay with relatives. But minus her psychic help, how can they work out why the hemp keeps falling over? Filled with many mysteries and scenes of constant chores, meal breaks, and neighbours helping one another the tale’s unusual characters include a flea named Ma. While a family prophecy says a girl named Gull will save the farm, Ma and her flea family play a vital role.

Ma’s large family, who readers are all introduced to, need lots of attention. And Ma’s worried about what’s happening to the hemp too. When she takes action it puts Gull and company on track to work out what evil forces are at work to destroy the community. Once they know, Gull steps up to the mark. Fortunately, Shirley is working at the local bank, which means she can let Gull gain access to the computers in order to copy some vital evidence.

Just as the bank announces that land owners must sell up, Gull and Shirley manage to get what they need to expose the evil force and his accomplice. All is saved and the town can rest easy. Crammed with facts about farming, food, insects, dogs and cats, the story’s multiple viewpoints let readers see how a farmer on the brink of failure is reduced to grief as well as how a flea thinks. Fortunately, all ends well and, despite the worries they all face, there is still much rib-poking and joking going on.

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