There are so many kids in Reuben’s family, his mum has to count them when they go out to make sure no one gets lost or left behind.
‘One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine,’ she says touching each one as they climb in the car.
Reuben’s big brothers and sisters duck and growl.
‘You are SO embarrassing, Mum,’ they say. ‘Everyone is looking at us.’
But Reuben loves his mum touching his head and counting. It makes him feel safe, because he knows she will never leave him behind.
Reuben is part of a large family living in the north of Australia. Every Saturday they go fishing. This Saturday, they are going to One Mile Beach. Reuben loves to go, but he also does some worrying. He worries a bit about the waves, and the crabs and other things that might go wrong. As the outing progresses, Reuben, although sometimes scared, calls on all his inner resources so he can help where help is needed. With the help of his brothers and his father, he decides to be brave and to be strong, where this is required. Helping his father and his bigger brothers makes him feel different. He’s not quite sure how it feels and wanders off to think about it instead of taking a nap with his younger siblings. And that’s when the biggest test of his strength and bravery is needed. ‘Losing Reuben’ is illustrated throughout in colour. A header and footer shows Reuben cartwheeling across spreads, progressing as the story unfolds. Some words are picked out in larger or different fonts.
Losing Reuben is a new title in the ‘Mates’ series from Omnibus Books. This series offers uniquely Australian stories for newly independent readers. It introduces a way of life particular to the north of Australia and indigenous Australians. At the same time, it is a story common in many families. Reuben is a small (but not the smallest) member of a large family. In the past, he’s been one of the little kids, staying with his mother and older sisters as his father and older brothers embark on more adventurous aspects of their outings. But this time, he’s in transition to being one of the big kids. And that means facing his fears. These challenges are just a normal part of the day. Reuben, like many children, internalises some of these fears, but when required to, finds a way to overcome them. ‘Losing Reuben’ is a delightful story of the ups and downs of being part of a large family. Recommended for newly independent readers.
Losing Reuben, Leonie Norrington ill Beth Norling Omnibus Books 2013 ISBN: 9781742990224
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
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