Monday, October 8, 2012

Bungawitta - Emily Rodda

It hadn’t rained in Bungawitta for a very long time. So long, little Glory-Alice had only seen rain on TV. And as Bungawitta dried up, the birds and animals and then the people started leaving. Every morning the twelve remaining residents of Bungawitta gather at the general store around Aunty Flo’s television set to watch the weather forecast. But it’s always the same. No matter what measures people take, the rains refuse to come. Even leaving the ute windows down all night and putting the best feather quilt and all the cushions in the house out to air doesn’t bring the rain. But not only does Bungawitta need rain, it needs money – to keep going. I the drought ever breaks they’ll need seed, stock, food – and that’s just for starters. Things are getting desperate.
Until Glory-Alice’s brother, Jay, has an idea. Money is easier to come by than rain. Why not have a festival and bring in tourists? Even though local lads Socko Riley and Greasy Cooper aren’t convinced, the idea of a Bungawitta Earth Sculpture Festival grabs the town by its bootstraps and whips up more enthusiasm than a dust storm. And so the preparations begin. They plan pony rides, a sausage sizzle, print T-shirts, cook fruit cakes, order portable loos and plough the paddock to be used for the earth sculptures. Old Maisie Macduff announces she’ll play the piano. But will city people trek to Bungawitta where the sun always shines to sleep under the stars and play in the dirt?
This is a you-beaut read from Emily Rodda. It’s funny, fair dinkum and showcases true Aussie pluck and tenacity as a couple of children star in a deliciously audacious attempt to save their town from drought. The characters are delightful, imbued with Rodda’s rogue sense of humour and brought to life by her laconic writing and Craig Smith’s superb illustrations.
Her first stand-alone junior novel for years, Bungawitta is sure to become a favourite on the bookshelf of many an eight to ten-year-old. Highly recommended.
Omnibus Books 2011
(A version of this review appears in Magpies Vol 26, Issue 1, March 2011)

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