The Spectacular Spencer Gray by Deb Fitzpatrick
Fremantle Press, 2017. ISBN 9781925164671
(Age: 9-12) Recommended. Themes: Endangered animals, Australia; Potoroos, Animal Trafficking, Courage. A search for a lost soccer ball at lunchtime leads twelve-year-old Spencer Gray into a mysterious adventure when he sees a suspicious man running away in the bush. Spence's decision to explore the BBO - the bush behind the oval and investigate further leads him to find a camouflaged tent hiding caged native animals. This discovery quickly takes him down a dangerous path involving animal traffickers, midnight missions and a frightening kidnapping.
Spence returns to the tent and chooses to rescue one of the caged small rat like animals. Concealing the creature in his school locker, smuggling it home and into his bedroom, means Spencer has to lie to his friends and family. After a sleep disturbed night, Spencer confides in his two best mates and they work together to return 'Fluffnut' to his natural environment.
During personal learning time at school, Spence discovers his small animal is a critically endangered Gilbert's potoroo whose natural habitat is the nearby bushland. Spence, Leon and Charlie's first mission involves a midnight bike ride to Arrow Beach but unfortunately, some other people are hunting in the area. Spencer's second attempt leads to his capture and he endures being tied up and put in a cage. The thrilling ending shows Spence's courage, quick thinking, resilience and determination.
The Spectacular Spencer Gray is an action-packed story with extremely relatable characters, a strong focus on the plight of endangered animals and a dramatic plot filled with adventure. Deb Fitzpatrick's second Spencer Gray story stands alone, a totally new and self-contained story. As a class novel, this is perfectly suited to Upper Primary classes, supporting the English and Environmental Sciences curriculum.