Star Jumps, by Lorraine Marwood

There is something we don’t understand,
as if the magic has gone out of spring,
as if we were just kids,
grubby in old clothes,
playing in weeds,
with a dog that doesn’t scare strangers
and cows that want to die
of making milk.

For Ruby and her siblings, a shower of rain means the emergence of the marshmallow weed, lush and green and a wonderful place for building tunnels and playing games. But the rain isn’t enough to stave off the drought, which is slowly but surely sapping the life from the family farm. As the marshmallow grows and calves are born, the family struggle to keep the farm going, but soon it becomes obvious that the herd must be reduced to make ends meet.

As the family battle to see a way forward, Ruby’s spirit keeps her searching for a solution. She will make a difference.

Star Jumps is a poignant verse novel about the impact of rural drought, but it is also something more – a story of family togetherness and of bonds which are strengthened by hardship. Whilst the family struggle, they are also able to support each other and to recognise how hardship impacts on each family member. The children look for ways to ease pressure on their parents, and on each other, and the parents, in spite of stress are patient and honest with their children.

Marwood’s verse is perfect for such a tale, with the first person voice of Ruby, the youngest of the family, a choice which enables young readers to experience first hand the impact of drought on rural families.



Star Jumps, by Lorraine Marwood
Walker Books, 2009

Loopy Locusts, by Jennifer Clutterbuck

Emma remembers when the farm was full of thick, green grass and fat, happy sheep. But now there’s a drought and there’s just dust and dead or dying sheep. She knows she has three choices – she can make it rain, she can invent a stock feed that doesn’t need water, or she can make money.

So make money it is, but somehow Emma’s money making schemes don’t seem to work out like she plans. When she tries carving sheep bones for scrimshaw, she ends up with a bag of maggots, and when she decides to make coats out of dead mice, she ends up with hundreds of mouldy mice.

Somehow, Emma is going to help pay the bills and stop her parents from sending her to boarding school, but things seem to be going from bad to worse. The final straw is when they get invaded by locusts. Something has to give. Strangely, it is the arrival of these locusts which provide a humorous, if surprising, change in fortune.

Loopy Locusts, by Jennifer Clutterbuck, with illustrations by Dale Leach, will tickle the funny bone of eight to twelve year old readers, whilst also touching on the serious problems of the farming life.

Loopy Locusts, by Jennifer Clutterbuck
Greater Glider Productions, 2002.

A Taste

My next idea came from TV. An animal sanctuary in the city which was about to go bust convinced local businesses to sponsor the animals. For their money a business got a sign wired onto a cage, saying how wonderful they were. I figured that if there were people in the city willing to pay for a wombat or a kangaroo, there were bound to be people willing to pay for a starving sheep.

I wanted to help people to see my vision, so I invented some satisfied customers. I needed them quickly…