'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 19 November 2010

Review: Star Jumps

The winner of the inaugural Prime Minister's Award for children's literature was recently announced... as this little treasure, Star Jumps.

Of course, we had to have a look at this book that was deemed so impressive that it beat several other fantastic books to the mark for this huge honour.

Star Jumps is the story of a family struggling to make a living from their farm during the longest drought they've ever experienced. Told from the unique perspective of young Ruby, we hear one real (or, at least, it feels real) story of modern times. One that we all need to hear, one that opens our eyes to a new world within our very own nation.

Ruby and her siblings are enjoying the start of calving season, a time when marshmallow weeds are blooming thickly - time for star jumps, in their eyes. It's an annual tradition, building tunnels and secret hiding spots; spending their days together laughing and playing.

The fun is interrupted, as always, with the responsibilities of Ruby's older brother and sister during this busy time on the farm. But this year there's something more. This year, there is concern of the long-lasting drought and the effects it is having on the stock. The business side of the farm is demanding that Ruby's parents take action - and fast.

Her family and their farm are Ruby's whole world, so when it all threatens to come crashing down, she feels it in a way that only a child can. It hits her with the innocence of a child who wants so desperately to understand and to help fix it all. It hits her with a determination to give it a shot.

And give it a try she does.

Ruby listens to the concerns of her parents and siblings and sets to work trying to fix some of the problems they have identified. Can one young girl really make a difference? Or is it too little, too late?

In a time when most Australian children, and adults, are so concerned with material possessions, the story of a family who feel so close to home and yet are struggling to break even, really hits the heart. It speaks of the importance of family, of working together, and teaches that invaluable life lesson - empathy.

This is a stunning verse novel, filled with fun and laughter and the opposing heartache and toughness - all facts of life on a farm. The ways in which Ruby feels the devastation of her world changing are true to life. Children really do feel the effects of such changes, and want nothing more than to help keep things the same, to make everything better.

The characters almost star jump from the pages of this novel; we feel their pain, and can't help but smile and shed a tear at the heartwarming final verses.

Star Jumps is not just an award-winner; it's a heart-winner.

Title: Star Jumps 

Author: Lorraine Marwood
Publisher: Walker Books, $15.95 RRP 
Publication Date: June 2009 
Format: Paperback 
ISBN: 9781921150722 
For ages: 9 - 12 
Type: Junior fiction