Star Jumps by Lorraine Marwood
Walker, 2009. ISBN: 9781921150722.
Highly recommended for ages 6 and up. Ruby, the narrator, her sister Keely and brother, Connor, live on a farm with their parents, Anteater, the collie dog and Stinky the cat. They head into the fields of marshmallow weeds, past the cattle, where they build houses and tunnels and plan to do their star jumps to welcome Saturday. Dad and Mum are stressed as the drought takes its toll, calving does not go smoothly and some of the cattle needs to be sold to allow for the survival of the rest. The children try to make things easier for their parents by creating their own food for the cattle on the farm.
This is a moving and beautifully written novel which won the Prime Minister's literary award in 2010. Written in verse, the sparse text tells the tale of Ruby's persistence and resilience as she tries to make a difference and continues to hope that the situation will be turned around. Her loyalty to her family and home, the cattle and her pets makes her a special character as she fights to make things better. With its familiar Australian setting and characters, this story is accessible to younger children. It could also be used as a paired text for older children with Michael Morpurgo's Out of the Ashes, the tale of a girl in the country side of Devon during a foot and mouth epidemic. Star Jumps comes with accompanying teacher's notes on the Walker website.
Jo Schenkel, Pilgrim School