Friday, 16 January 2015

A Game of Keeps

A Game of Keeps by Dianne Bates (Celapene Press)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN – 978-0-9873677-8-5
Reviewed by Emma Cameron

Eight year old Ashley’s story gives a refreshing, non-judgmental view of one family’s struggles. Though she loves Froggie, her pet guinea pig, Ashley longs for a puppy. When she’s older, she wants to be a dancer. Right now, however, what she wants most is for Mum and Dad to get back together. She knows that Dad is away a lot with his band, and appreciates him visiting when he can, but she dislikes being left home alone when Mum goes out at night.

Fortunately for Ashley, Mum and Dad aren’t the only adults in her life. Nor are they the only ‘family’ she has. Though uncertain when first meeting Daisy and Will, a couple from an ‘Aunts and Uncles’ support program, she soon sees how kind, fun and understanding they are about what she needs. Their support helps her be confident as she manages emotionally unsettling situations.

In the past, kids like Ashley may have been lucky enough to have a supportive neighbour in their life. Nowadays, however, people seem less certain about stepping in and playing a role. Fortunately, ‘Aunts and Uncles’ programs allow people like Daisy and Will to support and nurture children like Ashley. Her story acknowledges some of the reasons that people like Ashley’s family struggle and shows how this need not always be to the detriment of the child.

Though Ashley’s tale doesn’t resolve itself the way she hoped for, Daisy and Will’s guidance and friendship establishes a starting point from which both she and her mum begin turning their lives around. This satisfying, believable ending will delight readers as they see how beautifully and simply people like Daisy and Will embrace making every and any child’s welfare our responsibility.

Pencil drawings illustrating moments within the story add extra charm to the book and the examples of how ‘family’ can be made up of a range of people who provide a sense of belonging are sure to spark conversation about how we can all care for others. The world we live in today needs more books like this one.

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