Meredith Costain (text) and Danielle McDonald (illustrator), Box Car Racers (Olivia’s Secret Scribbles #6), Scholastic Australia, May 2019, RRP $12.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760660031
While I am becoming more and more familiar with the original Ella and Olivia series because my 4-year-old asks for them again and again, this is the first time I’ve read a book from the spin-off series Olivia’s Secret Scribbles.
For anyone else who hasn’t caught one of the first 5 books, this series is aimed at a similar demographic: the 6-9-year-old newly independent readers. I would also say that the content and level is suitable for 4 and 5-year-olds to enjoy as a read aloud. The most obvious difference between this series and the original is that this one is presented in the first person by Olivia and is structured as diary entries. Don’t let this put you off, the different days are basically set out as chapters would be in other books.
This particular instalment of the series, Box Car Racers, kicks off with Olivia telling us about Recycling Week at school. Many kids will be able to relate to this with their own schools running similar events. The main story revolves around Olivia and her friend creating a big box project that turns into a whole class project making and racing box cars. Secondary to this are the subplots about the lonely classmate in need of help, and what her big sister Ella is doing for recycling week.
The story is pretty straightforward and predictable, which you want in a book for this demographic. It does begin to introduce kids to ideas of friendship and reaching out to others. It may also encourage kids to begin writing independently as they might get the idea that writing a diary or journaling can be a really fun way of expressing yourself.
My one word of warning/note of praise is that after reading this there is a 90% chance your primary schooler will want to build their own box car racer out of cardboard boxes, scrap paper, glue, tape and potentially lots of glitter and paint.
Reviewed by Cherie Bell