Wednesday 13 December 2017

Ms Runway and Australia’s next top merino

Ms Runway and Australia’s next top merino by Matt Porter (Celapene Press) PB RRP $16.95 ISBN: 9781925572124 (paperback), ISBN: 9781925572131 (ebook; epub), ISBN: 9781925572148 (ebook; kindle)

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Ms Southern, principal of Outback Creek school (school emblem a giant earthworm), is concerned about the fall in student numbers. But another problem facing the school’s sixth graders is that they keep getting crazy relief teachers. Their last teacher, Mr Crikey, headed outback to study the occurrence of double-yolkers in emu eggs but … drumroll! … enter the fabulously beautiful, globe-trotting Ms Jennifer Runway, Host of Australia’s Next Top Model. Immediately Runway sets the students a task – to work out ways of attracting more students to Outback Creek.

The result is Outback Creek’s Next Top Model; a modelling competition where the winner will star in a social media campaign to attract new students to the school.

The students of sixth grade are a stereotypical bunch from the bright boy (Nathan), the dumb kind (Pete), the bully (Radley, who is smitten with the new teacher), and the token tom-boy (Holly). Then there’s Radley’s off-sider Weasel and would-be model Brittany, who, together with the school assistant, Mrs Forbes, fronts up for the audition along with a now sartorial Radley. But what’s the fourth entrant? Here comes Pete Peterson with his pet sheep, Delta Goodram! Of course, there’s hot debate about whether a sheep can enter a top model competition, but sure, why not?

Throughout the book there is plenty of amusing banter among the students. Particularly funny (and witty) is an episode where brainy Nathan matches wits with his less-smart teacher about answers to questions asked of contestants about what to take to a deserted island. (Why not a speedboat to escape?) In fact, the author’s use of dialogue is the strongest aspect of this fast-paced, energetic and engaging novel.

It’s refreshing to find a book for children that has no literary pretentions but is sure to appeal to and be enjoyed by the average reader aged 8 to 11 years. This is the fifth book in the Crazy Relief Teachers series which surely indicates that the series has been popular. Perhaps there will be more to come?

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