Sally Nowlan (text), and Maree Woolley (illustrator), Jumbuck’s Misadventure, Portgirl Books, October 2018, 60 pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780646984230
Jill is a country girl who one day adopts an orphan lamb she names Jumbuck. And so begins Jumbuck’s life as a pet sheep; swimming with the dogs; getting into the garden and eating the flowers; waiting for Jill to come home on the bus from school; and occasionally going with other sheep where he’s not supposed to. However, one day his adventures take him too far away – on a truck bound for a live export ship to the middle-east!
Having grown up on a sheep/livestock farm myself I could instantly relate to the theme of having a pet lamb, it is almost a passage of rite for country kids to raise at least one pet lamb. Mine was called Alex. Nowlan captures the special bond between human and animal, describing the relationship that grows between Jill and Jumbuck. It is very true that human-raised sheep seem to identify closely with the animals around them like dogs, as well as becoming very confident amongst people.
The story is written from Jumbuck the sheep’s point of view, which helps the reader empathise with the conditions a sheep encounters travelling on a truck and then a ship bound for the live-export market. Nowlan doesn’t go into horrible detail about the sheep suffering, but one does get a sense of the environmental distress they experience whilst enroute. It is written in such a way that middle-upper primary children would understand the issue without becoming overly distressed with graphic detail.
I thought the book remained fairly objective about the issue of live trade throughout except for the ending which definitely portrayed an opinion against the practice. I felt this could have been dealt with a bit more sophistication, leaving the question open for the reader to decide themselves.
Overall it was a very enjoyable read, with a good pace of events, well developed characters and a good level of description for readers to really connect with the story. This would be a great book for middle to upper primary students to read to gain a greater understanding of the live trade export and the effect it has on animals. The relationship between human and animals gives this book a lovely warmth.
Reviewed by Julie Bertola