The grand genius summer of Henry Hoobler by Lisa Shanahan

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(Age: 8-11) Recommended. Themes: Fear; Overcoming difficulties; Family; Friendship; Holidays. Henry Hoobler is full to the brim with doubts, fears and the wobbly tummy feeling that accompanies them - and the family camping adventure that the family has planned will bring all of these to the forefront for Henry. Henry is a delightful, sensitive lad - a middle child squeezed between an older brother with the confidence of early teens and a younger pre-school aged sister whose collection of 'little ponies' and precocious personality makes her an absolute joy. This is a family tale set in a happy family camping holiday that explores family relationships, friendships and overcoming the things in life that get in the way of joyful exuberance - like being afraid of riding a bike without trainer wheels.
Lisa Shanahan has written a beautifully sensitive exploration of fear and perseverance to overcome the tough things in life. Young readers will recognise themselves and the portrayal of family is overwhelmingly healthy. The delight of the book is the character Cassie who is a permanent resident of the Holiday Park that Henry and his family are visiting. She is wonderfully feisty and wise and 'more alive than a normal person' despite a life with its own struggles and hurdles. The delightful shared family holiday is also portrayed as a wonderfully positive experience with children exploring new things that demonstrate their own genius moments in an atmosphere of freedom and gelato tastings.
This is a book to recommend to readers aged 8 to 11 - or a great book to share as a read-aloud shared text for aged 7+ because of its social and emotional discussion potential. Carolyn Hull