Banjo and Ruby Red
Little Hare 2013
hbk., RRP $A24.95
Is there anything better than chooks in books? I’ve been building units of work around that theme for years and I’ve just discovered the BEST one to add to my collection.
Old Banjo is a chook dog. He sleeps in the sun with one eye on his charges as they peck and scratch and discover goodies that only chooks delight in. And each evening, when he gets the signal, Banjo barks and the chooks come from everywhere, scampering and scurrying to be safe on their roosts from the night creatures. All except Ruby Red. From her perch on top of the woodheap, she defies Banjo with an arrogance and aloofness that just o-o-z-e-s from the illustrations. Ruffling her feathers and stretching her neck to stare at the sky, she shows Banjo who’s top of the pecking order!
It’s a game they play every day until one day, there is no Ruby Red on top of the woodheap. Banjo is baffled and searches and searches until he finds her, lying still, feathers flat, eyes closed…
Enriching the story are the superb illustrations of Freya Blackwood. Here’s a snippet of how she did them…”Yes, the colour palette is an odd one – I didn’t really choose it, it just developed this way. I think there were a few colours I had in mind and the rest just got there by trial and error. I used oil paint this time, on watercolour paper. It was lots of fun! The brown you see in the photos is just the gum tape used to tape the paper to watercolour boards. ” She blogs about the creation of her artworks here and tells a little more of her story here .
This is a remarkable story of a relationship between a dog and a chook that might seem difficult to believe, if I hadn’t seen it with my dog Ebony and our chooks, Steggles and Ingham.
Because they were here before she was, she’s grown up with them and thinks she is one of them. Being the same height, they often eyeball each other and see who gives in first, and all three run to the gate when they hear the sound of a familiar motor. Ebony runs at them full tilt, either dodging at the very last minute or leaping over them. The chooks just stand there, unfazed, knowing that a quick peck will bring her into line. They are the triumvirate ruling this household daring any other creatures to set foot into their domain. There’s been more than one night when Ebony, who is well named, has been locked in the chookhouse in the dark! So it’s no wonder I love it, and Miss 7 and Miss 2 begged me to give it to them after we barked and squawked our way through it together.
The award-winning combination of Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood would be reason enough to buy this book – neither needs any introduction as the creators of the best of literature for young readers – but its subject has made it a personal favourite. Miss 7 and Miss 2 might just have to love it while they are here…