Unboring Exploring

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Various authors, Unboring Exploring, Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing, January 2021, 144pp., RRP $16.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780648205326

Early Harvest is a program run out of 100 Story Building – the inventive, creative, and exciting organisation for young writers in Melbourne. Early Harvest gathers together an editorial board of Year 5 and 6 students and takes them through an in-depth look at the publishing industry, culminating in the publication of an actual, real-life, can-hold-in-your-hands, book!

Last year the program ran throughout the pandemic, with five schools participating in workshops, in which students honed their fiction and poetry skills and submitted their work to the editorial board. The board then chose fourteen stories and poems to be put together as Unboring Exploring. Also featuring a story from Sally Morgan, the work covers a myriad of genres, topics, and styles.

Jane Zorbas takes readers on an exhilarating and emotional journey of a rebel deciding whether to continue fighting for her people or to flee to safety. Gayansa Garusinghe has created one of my favourite opening lines with, ‘I was standing in the hallway with a million fish,’ and the apocalypse horror that follows doesn’t disappoint (hint: it includes people with fish-heads).  And Nardine Gerges’ descriptions of what it might be like to be falling through a black hole gave me literal shivers. The stories excel with their dramatic action, strong sense of humour and imaginative concepts – Egyptian royals double-crossing each other, huge jewel-thieving spiders, an array of gadgets on a mission, Dr Sickening trying to steal the crown jewels, and more.

But – as they used to say on TV – there’s more! The editors, along with Brendan Ternus have created a choose your own adventure story that appears in miniature along the pages of the book. Attempt to read this at your own peril, because I opened a book labelled ‘Do Not Touch’ and ended up as human lasagne sheets.

The illustrations are just as exciting and add much to this collection, without overpowering the words themselves. Readers from 6 and up would gobble up this book (perhaps with adults reading for the younger ones), especially when they realise that almost all these works are written by students just like themselves. There’s something distinctively powerful in reading something and knowing, I could do that. The stories lend themselves to being mentor texts for Grades 3 to 6 – especially when considering narrative arc, descriptive writing, dialogue, and characterisation. This book is a must-have for every school and classroom library across the country.

Reviewed by Madeleine Crofts

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