Frank Davies and the Amazing Frog Catapult – Rohan Clifford
Format:Paperback, 240 pages
To be honest, I took a while to get into this book and it sat on my bedside table half-read for a couple of weeks. That could be because of my natural prejudices about cane toads or perhaps whiney kids. Then I picked it up with a fresher viewpoint and found I zipped through the last half and it began to come together.
Frank Davies lives in Laconia Heights, right next to an airfield – not a particularly salubrious location. His family comprises Mum, small clever but often irritating little sister, his Grampa and his step-father, Omar.
Frank is not a particularly happy boy as he has to deal with a nasty-tempered principal, Mr Edwart, as well as the bully Wobber Wiley at school and then when he gets home he grits his teeth resentfully at the presence of his step-dad, Omar Salman. Not that Omar is a horrible step-father, in fact quite the opposite, but Frank misses his dad and is angry at his mother for re-marrying. He spends much of his time with his much-loved Grampa who spends much of his time in the grotty backyard shed amid assorted strange bits and pieces.
One afternoon as Frank pours out his latest tale of woe to Grampa – a run in with Wobber Wiley which resulted in a suspension for Frank and some extra free plumbing repairs for the school courtesy of Omar – something weird starts to happen. Frank hears something in the pile of wood Grampa keeps for his little woodheater and almost thinks he sees something – something very strange indeed. At the same time, he begins to notice ridiculous and somewhat sinister numbers of toads all around the house and the airfield. When the cranky crazy cat-lady next door starts blaming Frank for the disappearance of her precious cats, the toads suddenly become even creepier, especially when Grampa takes out his old shotgun and keeps it at the ready.
Then tragedy strikes. For some unknown reason Grampa climbs onto the roof of his shed in the middle of the night (strictly forbidden at his age) armed with binoculars and gun and falls off – with fatal results. Before the ambulance collects him, he keeps repeating the phrase ‘Grim Wah’ to Frank as if passing on an important message.
In the midst of his terrible grief, Frank receives a shock visit from a gigantic frog and discovers the ‘Grimoire’ (an ancient book of frog wisdom) in the old shed and suddenly is propelled into a race against time and toads which leads all the way to Kakadu. In the splendid isolation of the Far North, Frank finds a peace which results in the end of the menacing toads as well as an end to his own self-misery.
At times fairly crazy but ultimately, poignant and wise about the healing process and moving on with life, what seems initially a light read becomes something much more.
Recommended for readers of around 10 and up.