Banjo Tully by Justin D'Ath

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Banjo Tully is an average 15-year-old boy living in country NSW. He is in Year 9 and is an easy-going prankster with a good group of friends and a strong sense of fairness. Banjo’s family own a farm and are living with the impact of a community in severe drought. They have already had to sell their cows, and all around them are other families who are also on the edge – selling farms and closing businesses.  

One morning Banjo takes his horse Milly and makes a stand against perceived injustice at his school, 21 kilometres away from home. In doing so he comes to the attention of a Vietnamese girl in Year 10. Mai Le is a well-informed, well-spoken and energetic female character who plays a vital role in increasing awareness of climate change throughout this story.

Mai pushes Banjo to become a poster boy for drought and climate change, by encouraging him to ride Milly over 800 kms to Canberra. Banjo is somewhat unwilling to begin with – the idea is crazy and all he really wants is to be able to keep Milly on the farm, not change the world! 

With some fast planning, though, he mounts Milly and heads towards the Climate Emergency Summit to be held in 12 days. The journey opens his eyes to the reach and devastation of the drought, and to the impact that one teenager can have in raising awareness. He is repeatedly aided by strangers along the way who admire his courage and growing conviction, and who all do what they can to help Banjo and Milly.

This book has a host of positive features: likeable and strong protagonists (both male and female), short chapters, love and care of animals, cultural diversity, and Australian setting/issues (drought, climate change, mateship and looking out for each other).

There is a comprehensive teacher resource available including curricular/cross-curricular links for Years 5-8, covering suggestions for use as well as discussion points.

This book could be used as a class text alongside Justin D’Ath’s 47 degrees, with shared themes of Australian environment, animals and different cultures.

Themes: Drought, Climate change, Adventure, Friendship, Horses, Diversity, Australia.

Kylie Grant