Sally Odgers (text) and Christina Booth (illustrator), Aussie Kids: Meet Dooley on the Farm, Penguin, September 2020, 64 pp., RRP $12.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760893682
Aussie Kids is a new series for readers who are ready for their first chapter books. Each of the eight books features a child from somewhere in Australia, giving children a peek into the lives of other kids’ homes and neighbourhoods. Aussie Kids: Meet Dooley on the Farm is a recent addition to this series.
Dooley lives on a farm on the north-west coast of Tasmania. When his cousin Sienna comes to visit from Sydney, Dooley is excited to show her around his farm. He plans to take her swimming in the Mersey River, feed the calves and spend a night in the barn. But Sienna isn’t used to farm life and won’t swim in the river, she finds the milking shed too noisy, and keeps asking “what’s that pong?”. Sienna soon begins enjoying herself, but when they try sleeping in the barn, there are even more surprising sounds and smells to keep them awake.
Aussie Kids: Meet Dooley on the Farm is a great way for kids to learn a about farm life from a child’s perspective. Although it is a short read with about 50 pages of large well-spaced type, it is an engaging story filled with animals, strong sensory detail, and a touch of humour.
Author Sally Odgers grew up on the farm on which the story is set. In a note at the end of the book, she describes how as a kid she was puzzled by the way visiting kids reacted to some of the experiences she was so used to. In this book, she captures the way that things that feel familiar and every-day to one person can seem strange and unsettling to another. The message “It would be boring if everywhere was the same” is a lovely take-away, and I like how this is used to help Sienna be more open to these new experiences.
Illustrations appear on almost every page, depicting life on the farm, the cousins’ friendship, and some of the more scary and humorous moments. These are lovely two-colour illustrations that feel full of warmth.
Aussie Kids: Meet Dooley on the Farm also includes a map, fun facts about farms, and a postcard graphic at the beginning that introduces the character and place.
This book, and the others in the series, is a great read and recommended for newly confident readers aged 5 to 8.
Reviewed by Bec Blakeney