Wednesday 1 December 2021

Banjo Tully

Banjo Tully by Justin D’Ath (Ford Street) ISBN 9781925804904 RRP $17.95 PB

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This upper-middle grade story is about a 15-year-old boy called Banjo, who decides to ride his horse on Ride to School day and ends up riding 800km to Canberra. In the drought-stricken town of Big River, Banjo is unaware that his parents have decided to sell his horse Milly. When he finds out, he hides away in the abandoned caravan park. A girl from school, Mei Le, who is a ‘conservation nut’ convinces Banjo to ride to Canberra, to raise awareness of climate change and to talk to the Prime Minister there. At first Banjo just goes to try to save his horse, but eventually he warms to the cause and completes the challenging journey.

Banjo is a resourceful and believable character, with lots of doubts about what he is doing, which makes him easy to relate to for the reader. His journey is full of difficulties as he runs out of water and food, tries to look after his horse and avoids his parents. Tied together are his worries about how the drought is affecting his parents’ farm and his will to keep the horse that his grandmother said was his. Descriptions of the effects of a constant lack of rainfall, serve as a very Australian and sobering backdrop to the story.

There are heart-warming moments, where Banjo meets people along the way who help him. Mei Le is very instrumental in the trip to Canberra: she sets up a crowdfunding site and buys him equipment. The fact that Banjo (who almost turns around part-way into the trip) wasn’t really that into the idea at first, makes it even more admirable when he does get to Canberra. In the end it is his decision to do something about the situation he is unhappy with. It’s a heart warming ending which could bring tears to the eye of some readers!

The cover tells the story with a black silhouette of a horse and parliament house in the background, a big yellow sun above. Author Justin D’Ath has written over fifty books for children and young adults. His latest, Banjo Tully, is suitable for children aged 10+.

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