Off the track by Cristy Burne
Fremantle Press, 2018, ISBN 9781925591743
(Ages: 9+) Recommended. Themes: Humour. Camping. Going hiking and camping with Mum's long lost old school friend and her daughter, does not thrill our hero, as he is told there is no mobile phone reception, so must leave his phone at home. He is bereft. His phone is a necessary part of his daily activity, not hiking or camping, and to be expected to be friendly with the daughter is just too much. He is from the city where the day is full of lying on the couch and gaming, not being out doors with snakes, the bush and insects. And the idea of snakes and robbers takes up a great deal of this thinking.
As he and Deep go off ahead, they have a walkie talkie to connect with their mothers, but something goes wrong. They realise that they have taken a wrong turning and try as they might, cannot connect with their mothers. They retrace their steps, taking care to have the waiguls guide them along the way, finally reaching the women and finding out just what has happened.
This new adventure for young readers about finding that there is a lot to love about the bush. Simply being in the bush helps Harry to disconnect with his dependence upon technology, and he finds that he can cope. Embedded in the story are the themes of friendship as the two older women reconnect and their children become friends despite early difficulties. Surviving in the bush is subtly displayed throughout the story as we hear of the things they take camping and why they are important. We hear of the rules of staying together, of following the signs and of keeping safe in the bush. All forms a quiet underbelly of the story and readers will pick up these rules readily as they are wrapped up in an involving story which is dramatic and real.