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- author Jackie French

Sunday 13 January 2019

Review: Bush Tails: A Close Call & Jake to the Rescue

This small book contains two excellent stories for early readers. 

Elaine Ouston has used her experience and knowledge from her time on grazing properties, to create strong and believable Australian country stories.

In A Close Call, Courtney has a new horse and she’s dying to ride him. Her old horse Bluey is neglected and when her dad reminds her he needs exercise, she reluctantly agrees to take him out. 

Dad’s warning not to go near the emu nest goes through one ear and out the other. 

From the hill, Courtney can’t tell if the emu eggs have hatched. She considers it safe enough to get closer when she sees the female emu some distance from the nest.

But it is the male emu that sits on the eggs. How could she have forgotten that? It’s when she gets into trouble after the male does what he must to protect the eggs, that Courtney learns a powerful lesson. Bluey proves his love and loyalty by saving her life.

Jake to the Rescue is relayed in first person narrative by the leading character. Jake is home schooled by his mum. Her new word for the day is initiative. She asks Jake to define it, giving his towels left on the floor as an example.

When their dog Laddie comes home without his dad, mum shrugs it off as a common thing. But Laddie is acting crazy, pulling at Jake’s trouser leg, running to the veranda and barking; trying to get his attention. When Jake thinks he wants playtime and follows Laddie out further into the dark, he realizes that something is not right.  He uses his initiative to follow the dog to where his father lies hurt. He splints dad’s broken ankle and wrist and leads him home on his horse.

Jake learns what initiative is by putting it into practice as his mum suggested. But he is reminded that for safety reasons, he shouldn’t have gone out into the night alone.

These are two great stories with a strong Australian outback flavour. Descriptions of the surroundings and happenings bring the reader closer to what is going on. Both include a lesson to be learnt in a non-preaching way, and the illustrations allow the spotlight to fall on the main characters.  

Elegant fine-line black and white illustrations accompany the text and add visual reinforcement to the story. Because the stories are short and are about children and adventure, they are ideal for reluctant readers - boys and girls. This is the second book in the Bush Tales series, with more to come.

Title: Bush Tails: A Close Call & Jake to the Rescue
Author: Elaine Ouston
Illustrator: Emma Middleton
Publisher: Morris Publishing, $12.95
Publication Date: October 2018
Format: Paperback
 ISBN: 9780648164722
For ages: 5 - 8
Type: Junior Fiction