I’d never been to Grandad Barney’s farm, even when he was alive. He’d grown bananas in the middle of woop woop, at a place in north Queensland.
‘Look, Dad! That sign says Mission Beach. We’re nearly there!’
We’d been driving for two days, travelling nearly 1,600 kilometres from Brisbane, and it felt like we were almost at the tip of Australia. I thought Dad would be happy we were getting close, but his face was growing darker with every passing kilometre.
Flynn and his dad travel to Flynn’s grandfather’s banana farm to prepare it for sale. Flynn has never met his grandfather, never been to his farm. No one will tell him why. Mum, left behind in Brisbane, asks Flynn to go easy on Dad. Flynn’s dad seems to get angrier every day, and no matter how many times Flynn asks, he won’t say why. This is cassowary country and their trip begins with a close encounter with a very tall cassowary. Flynn meets Abby, whose grandfather runs the local cassowary shelter. Day by day, he learns more about these endangered giant birds, his grandfather, and his father. But nothing comes easily. It’s hot and steamy and Flynn is about to explode with frustration.
Mister Cassowary is a junior novel set in tropical north Queensland. The title refers to the name of a particularly large cassowary that is legendary around Mission Beach. Flynn struggles to reconnect with his father, who works away at a mine and only comes home now and then. Travelling to the home where his father grew up seems to make things worse, rather than better. Dad is taciturn and full of rules that Flynn doesn’t understand. He doesn’t want Flynn to explore and he won’t tell him why. No matter what Flynn does, it seems to be wrong. But gradually, with the help (and hindrance) of Abby and her grandfather, and despite Dad’s silence, Flynn begins to fill in the spaces in his family history. ‘Mr Cassowary’ explores notions of family and conservation. Recommended for mid-primary readers.
Mister Cassowary, Samantha Wheeler
UQP 2015 ISBN: 9780702253881
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller