Justin D’Ath, Banjo Tully, Ford Street Publishing, September 2021, 216 pp., RRP $17.95 (pbk), ISBN 9781925804904
Banjo Tully is a typical 15 year old Australian boy in Year 8. But his concerns about school assignments and boring classes are eclipsed by the worry he shares with his parents in relation to the relentless drought. Banjo lives on a remote farm with his family, 21 kilometres from Big River, the closest town. In these times of drought, the locals joke about changing the town’s name to Empty River. Water is a scarce commodity. His parents have sold their cattle, as they can no longer afford the cost of feeding them. There’s a real chance that they could lose their farm.
Banjo rides his horse Milly to school one day, initially as a bit of a lark. Before he knows it, that short ride evolves into an 800 kilometre solo horse ride to Canberra to speak to the Prime Minister about the effect climate change is having on his community. Banjo’s school friend, Mai Le, plays a pivotal role in making Banjo aware of the bigger picture and the importance of making a stand, and ultimately, becoming a climate champion.
Through Banjo’s eyes, the reader sees the terrible effects of climate change on our rural communities. It’s not only the farmers who suffer, but also the small businesses who rely on the farmers and their families for their custom. The ripple effect of drought is illustrated in a way that will make young readers really think about the climate emergency.
D’Ath’s message regarding climate change is serious, but the story of Banjo Tully and his heroic horse Milly’s journey – both physical and emotional – is a real page turner and is guaranteed to keep readers enthralled until the last page.
Highly recommended for readers aged 10 years and older.
Teachers’ Notes can be found on the publisher’s website.
Reviewed by Gaby Meares