The Bunyip in the Billabong is the first in a new series called Bush Tails written by Elaine Ouston and published by Morris Publishing in 2016. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy.
Bunyips are popular subjects with a lot of readers, and The Bunyip in the Billabong makes use of many icons of the Australian bush from billabongs to dingoes to sheep. Granddad is a quintessential teller of bush tales.
Eleven-year-old Matthew and his much older brother have been home-schooled on the family property and now Jason is at university, Matthew feels somewhat lonely. When lambs begin to disappear, Dad thinks dingoes are to blame. Matthew remembers his grandfather’s story about the bunyip in the billabong. Could the bunyip be responsible for taking the lambs? Matthew is in two minds as Dad says no and Granddad says maybe. When two of the most important people in his world disagree, who should he believe? When Jason comes home for a few days, Matthew sees his chance to solve the mystery.
Elaine Ouston tells a good story. The pace moves along smoothly, with likable characters and a warm family-centred tone. The dialogue is natural and the sheep station setting well realised. I liked the way the mystery was resolved, with no fuzzy question marks over the ending. This short but fully-formed chapter book is ideal for reading aloud or for independent reading. Since Matthew is eleven, it would also work for less able or less engaged older readers.
Click HERE to read an interview with the author.