Review Blog

Aug 16 2011

Where there's smoke by John Heffernan

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Omnibus, 2010. ISBN978 1 86291 866 5.
(Ages 10+) Recommended. Fire. Stunned by the sound of a motorbike, during one hot afternoon at school, recalling his father's abuse and the reason he ad his mother have left home, Luke is surprised into answering his teacher in less than respectful way and so is sent to the principal. But he runs off to the one person who he knows will understand the anger that is inside him, his family's friend and saviour, Tiny. He offers to stay at their place until the threat of the man's return is over, much to their relief. But Luke must still contend with the bully at school, and placate his friend, Sarah, who has told him in every way she can, not to fight. But fighting seems to him the only way he can throw off bullies and it is to this that he resorts every time he is threatened.
Meanwhile, small fires are building up in the summer's heat, and people look to the hills around Edenville, shading their eyes from the glare of the sun, to check where the fires are. Nina and Luke too, look out, not for the fire, but for Nina's ex-husband, a man she knows has found them yet again, carrying through this threat never to leave them alone.
Two strong themes are presented in this easy to read, fast paced story of fire, with the threat of fire ever present just as the lingering threat of Nina's ex-husband is always there. Both threats come to a climax and readers will avidly read to the end, learning about the reality of bushfires in rural Australia and much about fire safety. Without being didactic, Heffernan creates a situation where readers will learn about the recent Victorian bushfires through the impact of such a fire on a small hills community.
Fran Knight

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