Review Blog

Sep 15 2017

Pip and Houdini by J. C. Jones

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Allen and Unwin, 2017. ISBN 9781760296056
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Dogs, Running away, Family. A disarming story of dislocation and reunification will grip readers from the start as they follow Pip and her loyal hound Houdini when they run away from home, after she has upset the applecart once again. Knowing that she has damaged the tenuous relationship she has with her foster family weighs heavily on her but with a nine year old postcard and a name, Cass and a place where her birth mother lived, Byron Bay, Pip and Houdini set off from Sydney.
There follows a road journey where she must survive on her wits, taking chances with people she meets and always being solicitous to the needs of her dog. Mid primary people will love reading of her adventures, sneaking onto a train, keeping Houdini hidden, busking on the streets, finding money for a little food and water for the two of them, avoiding the police who are searching for her.
Children will be able to follow her journey stopping at various points along the way, sigh with her when the train is delayed, and be angry when the young woman she has befriended, steals her remaining money.
But in meeting a lone surfer and warning him of the shark nearby, she finds a friend, and piecing together the clues from her memorabilia with the information given her about her mother, Cass, she is able to find some of her family, family that in the main were unaware of her existence.
The loving relationship between Pip and Houdini is wonderfully drawn, and children will melt reading of the two of them avoiding contact with others in case they are found out. In meeting the young woman with a guitar she does not play, readers will hear of some of the tricks of the trade that reality shows use to engage their audience, and the effect these tricks have on the participants.
A wonderful road story of hope, of not finding what you are looking for but finding something else almost as good, leaves the tale of these two delightful characters open for a third outing, which children will anticipate with real pleasure. The first story of Pip and Houdini, Run, Pip, run, was shortlisted in 2016 for the CBCA Book of the year, and won the Readings Children's Book Prize, 2016.
Fran Knight

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