The Bunyip in the Billabong written by Elaine Ouston (Morris Publishing)
PB RRP $13.99
Reviewed by Liz Ledden
The first in a new chapter book series called ‘Bush Tails’, The Bunyip in the Billabong tells the story of Matthew, an eleven year old boy who is enamoured of his grandfather’s tales about the elusive bush creature, the bunyip. His grandfather describes the bunyip as a large, walrus-like animal, with long black hair and a bloodcurdling howl that lives in a cave by a waterhole.
When some lambs go missing on their remote, rural property, Matthew is convinced it must be due to the bunyip. Matthew’s father mocks his belief in this supposedly mythical creature, yet his spritely grandfather supports Matthew, suggesting they camp by the billabong to be sure.
When Matthew hears strange sounds and sees ripples on the water’s surface, he’s more and more certain it must be a bunyip. On a subsequent trip with his older brother bearing scuba diving gear, Matthew discovers the truth.
The book’s traditional rural setting and characters are reminiscent of a bygone Australian era, with echoes of bush poetry along the lines of Waltzing Matilda evident. Matthew’s endless curiosity and determination would resonate with readers, and his grandfather and brother’s support is truly endearing. This is an entertaining story with enough mystery and rising tension to keep a primary school-aged reader hooked.