Review Blog

Sep 26 2011

Strays by Ron Koertge

cover image

Walker Books, 2008. ISBN 9781406316124.
Ted is a teenaged boy who must deal with the death of his parents, subsequent entry into the world of foster care and life in a new school as a potential victim. The individuals with whom he interacts in the context of the drama have often been damaged and hurt by other people and life itself.
This is by no means a bleak story which dwells upon misery or abusive themes as so many contemporary narratives do. Instead, the characters involved in the welfare system and foster care are realistic in their essentially good intentions but imperfect makeup. Ted himself is a resilient soul possessing a mature outlook, a philosophical rationale and the capacity to silently communicate with animals.
The roles of animals are symbolic of human experiences, ranging through suffering due to abandonment and neglect to flourishing from compassion and loving care. It is soon appreciated that Ted is no Dr. Doolittle but he is a lonely and scared boy who has learned to seek solace and companionship from animals when humans have failed him. Anyone who has hugged a friendly dog will understand and identify with this.
Ted's predicament could reasonably have been the start of a spiral descending into dysfunction, disengagement and withdrawal from structured and meaningful life. Instead, the acts of kindness, the instances of loyalty and the moments of support from his peers influence this child and provide him with a sense of hope and fulfillment.
This story is simple and affirming yet I was left feeling disappointed by the fact that it deserved greater detail and expansion than is possible in a novel which is pitched at teens who won't read more than two hundred pages. There is nothing wrong with this book, however it might have been a great one if Koertge had allowed his marvellous idea to develop by doing justice to the narrative and characters. The clipped episodic events and compactly summarized characters tended not to contribute to a narrative flow and left me feeling that I was reading a heavily edited version of the larger story which had been published for less capable readers.
Rob Welsh

Archived Blog Entries
Latest News
CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals 2018
National Book Award winners 2017
Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards 2017
YABBA Awards 2017
Teens' top 10
2017 Man Booker Prize
Australian Family Therapists' Award for Children's Literature 2017 winners
2017 Children's Peace Literature Award Short List
Inkys Awards 2017
2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award
2017 NSW Premier's History Awards
The Queensland Literary Awards 2017

ReadPlus Features
Print similar authors bookmark
Read similar authors
How to find lesson plans
Sample theme animation

Promote Reading
Staff holiday reading list 2017
South Australian Christian Schools Conference 2016 - Library Displays
Display calendars
Value of School Libraries
Library, Reading development and the Internet
Free Rights of the Reader Poster
Reviews: Author index
Bookmark and poster templates