Little Else Series, by Julie Hunt

Little Else lived with her grandmother at the bottom of Stony Gully. Times were tough. It hadn’t rained for years. There was nothing in the garden except one small cabbage and a stick of celery. Little Else and her grandmother were so poor they only had dinner once a week. They were so thin they had to walk over the same ground twice to throw a shadow.
One day, a man came to the door of their hut. He had large muscles and a handlebar moustache.
‘Sam Strong’s the name,’ he said. ‘I’m looking for spare children. Short ones, tall one, thin ones, small ones. Any kind will do. Ma will sort them out. She’s looking for apprentices for her bush circus.’
Grandma looked doubtful.
‘There’s no spare children here, Mr Strong,’ she said.

Little Else loves her grandma but also wants to experience all the world has to offer. So when the opportunity comes to join the circus and be paid in gold, she sees an opportunity to see the world and to provide for her poverty-stricken grandmother. She’s a plucky, audacious heroine with the ability to converse with animals. This skill comes in handy as she is tricked into joining the circus (Trick Rider), leads her own group of bushrangers (On the Run), and hunts down a legendary group of cattle (Ghost Hunter). It seems there is no injustice she can’t right, even at the cost of getting her face on a ‘Most Wanted’ poster. Even her horse begins to wonder if he should have stuck with Harry Blast, a notoriously bad-tempered bushranger.

Little Else is a wild child. Little Else is seven years old and she can do anything. And she does. With dry humour and wonderful place names like ‘Witt’s End’, Desolation Ranges, Windy Ridge, Dead Man’s Gap and Mt Long Gone, Little Else leads her rag-tag bunch of companions on missions both far-fetched and far-flung. All the characters are full of humour and personality, from the laconic bushranger’s horse ‘Outlaw’, to the cannibal’s child ‘Toothpick’. Little Else is a magnetic character, attracting loyalty from all those she meets, but suspicion from those who don’t know her. Her release of knackery horses earns her the title ‘horse rustler’ and another Wanted poster. Little Else is told in third person and the most wonderful deadpan humour and will have newly independent readers chuckling out loud. In contrast to the colourful characters within, the covers of each title are pastel, perhaps suggesting that people should not be judged on appearances (age, gender…), but also to entice small girls into something other than fairies and princesses. Wonderful fun.

Little Else – Trick Rider Julie Hunt, ill Beth Norling
Allen & Unwin 2010
ISBN: 9781741758771

Little Else – on the Run Julie Hunt, ill Beth Norling
Allen & Unwin 2010
ISBN: 9781741758764

Little Else – Ghost Hunter (Little Else) Julie Hunt, ill Beth Norling
Allen & Unwin 2010
ISBN: 9781741758788

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author