Drongoes by Christine Bongers

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Ill. by Dan McGuiness. Omnibus, 2013. ISBN 9781 86291 982 2.
(Age: 6+) Highly recommended. Chapter book. Humour. The series, Mates, has added 16 wonderful stories to the small range of books offered to the emerging independent reader. This series engages the new reader with stories that are immediate, based on situations they know, full of humour and fun, with words which may cause a hiccup or two shown in a different font, adding another level of interest to an already fascinating page of colour, excitement and involvement.
If you didn't know the meaning of the Australian slang word, drongo when you started reading, then you will certainly know it at the end, and to add to your understanding two pages are given after the story to further explain the history of this precise word.
Eric and Jack are best friends, and although not overstated or explained, Eric has problems with breathing. He desperately wants, just once, to finish a race at school. Both boys are always beaten by the brash Rocket Robson, and when it comes to the final event of their primary school year, the cross country, they train to be able to beat him, and on Eric's side, simply to finish. They train running around and around Corbie Park, thrilling the pack of spangled drongoes that live there. On the big day, they all run well, but as Rocket eats several meat pies before he starts, the inevitable happens, and the two boys are able to pass him. But near the finish line, Eric starts to wheeze and pulls back, while Jack almost gets to the tape. But what can he do about Eric? The spangled drongoes save the day in a surprising way making this a entertaining story about what winning actually means.
Fran Knight