Wednesday 26 June 2024

Kids on the Run

Kids on the Run by Dianne Bates (Morris Publishing) PB RRP $18.00 ISBN 9780645759891

Reviewed by Kellie Nissen ( 

Here’s a fact nobody wants to hear: one in seven people who are experiencing homelessness are children under 12. Another fact: eight out of every 1000 children in Australia are in out-of-home care. And a third fact: Australia has a shortage of foster carers.

These facts are what make Kids on the Run, a new mid-grade fiction by award-winning Australian author, Dianne Bates, so poignant, real and eye-opening.

Fourteen-year-old Josh is well-experienced with life on the streets and in foster care – but he’s finally been placed with a family in a home where he feels safe. Sure, he must share with eleven-year-old Brodie and Jaylee, who is only three, but he has a bed to sleep in and food to eat. It will do for now.

Except, good things never last, do they?
On his first night, Josh awakes to the scared whisper of Jaylee and the smell of smoke. He grabs both children, and their bags, and the three-escape unharmed. With the house well and truly alight, and surrounded by fire trucks, Josh is petrified he will be blamed for the fire. So, he does the only thing he can do – he runs. And Brodie and Jaylee follow him.

Josh is used to looking after himself, but he’s never had to look after anyone else – let alone two traumatised children. But now, he has no choice.

Author Dianne Bates has crafted a story that is both sensitive and full of tension; both heart-wrenching and heart-warming. 

There is the slightest sense of a Hardy Boys adventure, or even Famous Five – but without the gloss and the lemonade for tea, because this is contemporary Australia.

Dianne’s portrayal of the three children, with her carefully developed characterisation, is real and believable. They have personalities that complement each other, and each character has their own arc – particularly Josh who discovers a part of himself – and a worth – that he didn’t think existed. 
To avoid the stereotype of ‘the homeless’ and ‘the foster child’ took skilful writing and a deep understanding; Josh, Brodie and Jaylee could each well be anyone’s child, sibling, friend or student.

The events that befall the children as they try to avoid capture by the police and find a safe place to stay are both ‘unbelievable’ yet realistic. For those of us from privileged backgrounds, who is to say these things could not happen?

And therein lies the power of Kids on the Run – the ability to open readers’ eyes to a reality through story.     

Despite the raw reality of the story, Kids on the Run is perfect for a young mid-grade readership, but should also be read by parents, carers and teachers – both independently and with their children and students as it is sure to inspire deeper conversations, reflections, awareness and tolerance. 

There are tough themes to deal with – poverty, parental loss and homelessness, among others – but intertwined are also messages of resilience, empathy and loyalty.

​Thank you, Dianne Bates, for writing this important story.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Buzz Words Books would love to hear what you think.