Ford St Publishing
No doubt about it, Paul’s on a winner with this one!
Harry Kruize is an average sort of boy but has an over-abundance of woes and worries. In fact, his self-esteem could hardly be any lower nor his anxiety any less.
It’s not that he minds helping his mum out with the boarding house. After all, since his Dad went away it’s just been the two of them but so many other things are just wrong. Having to see Fitzy the school psychologist (to eliminate any residue issues over his dad’s defection), being constantly ridiculed by the gaggle of nasty girls known collectively as the Bees, having no friends at all, living in mortal dread of the biggest bully in the school, the BRICK, his mum acting all weirdo and secretive are all major problems in Harry’s teenage life. Worst of all, he so desperately wants a dog. More than anything, a dog would make him so much happier.
When Harry’s favourite teacher Mr Granger sets a whole term assignment to illustrate the power of words, Harry is unconvinced. Still he does write down his wishes and he keeps his HH (Harry Hobbit) diary to verbalise his thoughts.
Along comes a character Harry would never have dreamed existed. An old guy named Jack who looks like he stepped straight out of a painting of a bush swagman turns up and needs a place to stay – just for a bit – because he’s really the type who roams about. Suddenly Harry finds himself with a friend and more importantly a friend who knows and understands dogs. Harry’s engagement with Jack and his yarns about fantastic dogs he’s known become the highlight in his existence.
I have to tell you Paul I recognised that it was Henry from the get-go – I am my father’s daughter after all. I just love this juxtaposition of a 21st century teenage boy’s angst and Henry Lawson’s bush philosophy.
As Harry hears more and more of Jack’s stories things begin to shift in his life. The snarled up threads of his normal days seem to untangle and begin to run more smoothly. By the time, Jack disappears ‘on the wallaby track’ again, Harry has solved the mystery of his Mum’s strangeness – and is about to have a new stepfather, gained the trust and growing friendship of the Brick, finished his sessions with Fitzy, faced down the Bees and most importantly of all has a champion dog of his own.
Henry Lawson was a man who saw the best in our collective Australian personality – the courage, the resilience, the laconic humour, the loyalty and more. He imbued his bush yarns with these qualities and I believe they still exist, exemplified in instances such as hundreds of ordinary people turning up with mops and buckets to help with floods or those battling bushfires or putting our hands up to give a hand up to anyone who needs it and much more. His spirit and his faith in his fellow Australians lingers, as it does for Harry, inspiring those same qualities so that we can all recognise in ourselves our best.
I would highly recommend this for your readers from around Year 6 and up – I foresee it being a novel that teachers would love to see as a class reading. Enjoyable and humorous it’s appeal will be for both boys and girls.
Before my aunt and cousin moved a few years ago from their place outside Mudgee – one of my great joys in visiting was knowing I was in the heart of Lawson country. Driving past the Budgee Budgee Inn where Henry wrote The Loaded Dog, visiting the site of his childhood home and Gulgong and generally soaking up his lingering presence were all fodder for my imagination.
Henry Lawson (17 June 1867 – 2 September 1922) was an Australian writer and poet. Along with his contemporary Banjo Paterson, Lawson is among the best-known Australian poets and fiction writers of the colonial period, and is often called Australia’s “greatest writer”.
Although Henry was born at the Grenfell goldfields, he was raised, from the age of six months to 15 years, in a cottage 8 km north of Mudgee at Eurunderee (then known as ‘Pipeclay’), which was established after a gold find in 1863. He briefly attended the local Catholic school.