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Thursday 21 October 2021

The What On Earth Institute of Wonder

Riddle me this. What do an animal-loving girl with a special gift, a talking kakapo, a teen boy who prefers his boombox to Spotify, a kombi van and the world’s youngest doomsdayer have in common? Well, an elephant, of course!

This is a fun adventure packed with so many ideas that it will appeal to a wide cross-section of your readers. Sal and Roy have had a difficult home situation since their dad left the family, because their mum has, to all intents and purposes, abandoned them as well, as she tries to make sense of the situation by focusing on her study of the moon.  

At only 12, it’s been a big responsibility for Sal to keep things on track for her little brother Roy, a quirky kid obsessed with his perpetual preparations for the impending end of the world. 

Luckily, albeit strangely, Sal has had real comfort and support from a most unexpected quarter, in the form of Hector, the talking kakapo who just happened to land in the town of Larry, right outside Sal’s bedroom window.

Sal’s friend Bartholomew is similarly having a rough time, since his mother left, and his refuge has become the immortal Lena Horne via his treasured 80s-style boombox.

When an elephant turns up in Larry, the town where nothing ever happens, the sheer unexpectedness of it takes all the residents by surprise and sets off a chain of events that brings out the best in some people, and the worst in others. It becomes apparent that Sal, Roy and Bartholomew, along with Hector, must take matters into their own hands to save the surprise elephant from a disastrous fate.

Their elephant rescue mission involves 14-year-old Bartholomew driving his uncle’s prized kombi van stuffed full of elephant as well as Sal, Roy and Hector up a very steep mountain, with local police on the lookout for a kidnapped pachyderm.  What could possibly go wrong?

Sal doesn’t just rescue an elephant. She saves her family, her friends, and her town in the process and readers cannot help but be alerted to the precarious situation of many of the world’s wildlife.

With adventure, family life, humour and drama a-plenty, I heartily recommend this for your readers from around Year 4 upwards.

Title: The What on Earth Institute of Wonder
Author: Lisa Nichol
Publisher: Penguin, Imprint: Puffin, $16.99
Publication Date: 31August 2021
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781761041556
For ages: 10+
Type: Middle Grade Fiction