Review Blog

Aug 10 2020

A clue for Clara by Lian Tanner

cover image

Allen & Unwin, 2020 ISBN: 9781760877699.
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. Bullied and despised chook Clara, retreats to the farmhouse where she sits all say watching television. Her favourite shows are detective series, Death in the city and Amelia X Girl detective. She develops skills similar to the sleuths she admires, determining to become a detective herself, and solves the egg stealing episode at the chook house, although Rufus the rooster takes all the glory for himself. She wants to share her abilities so when a police car comes to the farm, investigating the latest round of sheep thefts, she tries in vain to communicate with them, but when she inadvertently finds herself in the police car, she works out a way to communicate with the young girl in the back seat, Olive, the policeman's daughter.
Humour abounds in this merry tale, as the reader sees a slightly worse for wear chook, the lowest in the pecking order in the farmyard, using her television inspired skills to solve a crime. The contrast between what the reader knows and what Clara thinks she knows will have readers laughing out loud. Her attempts at using morse code to talk to the girl for example, is seen by the girl as just an annoying peck from the strange chook on the floor of the car. Eventually Clara works out that she can peck out messages on Olive's mobile phone, and they communicate. Olive is being bullied by a new girl in the school, Jubilee, and her father Mr Simpson is the talk of the town, Little Dismal, as he has saved the pub from being closed and has offered to install CCTV cameras to catch the thief.
But Clara suspects his girl of being a master criminal so her surveillance of the family leads to the solving of the crime, but not in the way Clara thinks. The witty text is wonderfully supportive with equally funny illustrations by Cheryl Orsini.
This smart, clever and very funny story of standing up to bullies, of friendship in the most unlikely of places, of coping with grief, all wrapped up in a story about a girl and her pet chook is one of the most endearing tales I have read for a long time.
Tanner quietly introduces the fact that Olive's mother has died, and the grief that surrounds Olive and her father is pervasive. The efforts of those around them makes the bullying by the 'Merrycan' girl even more despicable, and it is with a loud cheer that she becomes undone. Life in rural Australia with the problems of stock theft, of towns closing down, of people moving away, of a lone police officer trying to cope with angry farmers, saddled with drought, dwindling prices and fewer staff to help work the properties forms a most credible background to the story.
It is a book that begs to be read and enjoyed. Teacher's notes are available.
Fran Knight

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