Charli is thrilled to be attending a real-life riding camp where she’ll learn everything she needs to know about riding horses. But when she allows heCharli is thrilled to be attending a real-life riding camp where she’ll learn everything she needs to know about riding horses. But when she allows her fears about bats and the Hendra virus to get the better of her, things don’t quite go as planned.
I really enjoyed Samantha Wheeler’s first book, Smooch and Rose when I read it last year, so I was really looking forward to reading this one. Sadly, I don’t think it was as good as Smooch and Rose. Where Smooch and Rose felt multi-layered and had a real heart to it (I actually cried when I read it), Spud and Charli felt a little too one-noted, and didn’t reach me in quite the same way.
There’s a couple of reasons this might be the case – to start with, I’m not as invested in horses as I am in koalas – I’m just not a big horse person, while I live in an area where there’s recently been mass clearing of koala habitat. As an adult, I also had a pretty good idea of what the adults had done/were doing, so I didn’t have the same sense of dread that a younger reader might have. A younger reader who is interested in horses, might be able to move around those issues.
My main issue though, was the use of the ‘child over-reacts and goes too far because adults don’t give them information’ trope. It’s not the over-reacting that bugs me, so much as the ‘going too far’ – in this case, it felt like Charli was written into a position which she really couldn’t come out of. And it led to a conclusion which left me dissatisfied as a reader.
There’s information on the Hendra virus and bats and horses at the end of the book which is well worth reading – I like the little snippets which serve to build on knowledge and understanding of the reader or which act as a launching pad into further reading.
I really want to read more from Samantha Wheeler, but I really hope her next book has as much heart as Smooch and Rose. Spud and Charli is a nice little book which would appeal to younger readers, but I think the author has more powerful books to write.
A little boy is going on a train to visit his grandmother. Along the way he finds some stations with some very unusual patrons . . .
When my 2 year oldA little boy is going on a train to visit his grandmother. Along the way he finds some stations with some very unusual patrons . . .
When my 2 year old saw the picture of this book on my computer, he immediately ran to find the book to ‘read’ it to himself. It’s safe to say that he loves this one.
And it’s not hard to see what he loves – there’s a train and plenty of animals, which immediately gets his attention. Then there’s the repeating text – and it is really repetitious – which allows him to read along with me, or even ‘read’ it himself (we’re in the midst of the ‘I can do it’ stage, so being able to ‘read’ is a huge thing for him). There’s a fabulous use of sounds, which is fun for a toddler to make (plus fits right in with the train whistle his great-grandmother gave him for Christmas) and a little boy who exclaims ‘No!’ at several times through the book – a little bit of rebellion which tickles my little boy’s funny bone.
These things which make it a great book for him, also make it a great read aloud. There’s always a bit of excitement in the air when you turn to a page and find a repeating sequence. The animals represented are a lovely collection of familiar and slightly strange. And the ending gives a lovely sense of completion.
The illustrations are fairly simple, but fun to look at. There’s little things that change even when the text is repeating, and that’s really fun to look for and talk about.
I could see this one being wonderful in the home, for library story times, at daycares and kindys and prep classrooms. It might be a nice one to have for independent reading in Year 1 and Year 2 classrooms too, as the repeating text lends itself to having a real feeling of mastery when reading it.
When Louise goes for her first horse ride in the country, she is enchanted to come across a group of brumbies. However, when she discovers that theirWhen Louise goes for her first horse ride in the country, she is enchanted to come across a group of brumbies. However, when she discovers that their numbers will be reduced and some brumbies will be sold for pet food, she and her new friend Ben are determined to undertake a muster and save their favourites. But despite the backing of Ben’s family and the park ranger, nothing seems to go to plan.
I came across this book when I was alerted that it was free on Amazon – I’m really glad I did, as I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m probably going to be purchasing the sequels! Horse books were never my thing as a child – although I once rode a horse at my friend’s property and many of my friends were horse riders (I did grow up in a rural town), I was a small kid and always a little scared of the big horses. Plus I had a tonne of ballet books (and Baby-Sitters Club books) to read.
I really enjoyed this look at horses though – the way horses were treated by the main characters and the way they were described through the book. It reminded of the respect given to horses in the Ranger’s Apprentice series and the old Trixie Belden books I read.
The book had a rather lovely old fashioned feel to it – in a really good way. The characters are teenagers, but there’s no romance, just good developing friendship. The risks are there and real (a possible bushfire, getting caught unprepared in the bush) but they never feel over the top – they’re handled very practically. And the writing style reminded me a lot of some of the older, calmer books I read when I was younger. I’m finding that a lot of YA and kids books I’m reading a bit frantic at the moment, so this calmer pace was very welcome.
This is also a great book to hand to those more advanced readers who are looking for a challenge, but aren’t ready for more adult themes in their books – a group of readers who are often looking for recommendations. The story line is a little more mature than early readers or earlier middle grade books, but there’s nothing which would be too old for the 7-9 yr old age group. It would also make a nice read-aloud book, probably prompting some interesting discussions about how introduced animals are dealt with in Australian parks and the moral issues raised through some of the events in the story.