Stuff Happens: Dale
120pp., pbk., RRP $A9.99
Despite what Prince Harry has done for the reputation of redheads, being a redhead can still be a beacon for teasing and even bullying in schools. It seems nothing has changed since the 50s when I was at school with my bright red hair, freckles AND glasses! And so it is for Dale. He has heard it all over the years – Ranga, Blue, Carrots, Carrot-top, Strawbs, Sauce – it seems there are more names for redheads than there are shades of auburn. So it’s the last straw when Perfect Pupil Dan, lead in the school play that Dale has a non-speaking role as a monkey, taunts him. What starts as a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ quickly makes its way back to cracks about his red hair and Dale has had enough.
At break he sits in the No Hat, No Play zone, his hat pulled tightly down to hide not only his hair but himself. And it is there that the idea for payback is born. And when he fails to bleach his hair with lemons (I could have told him it wouldn’t work and neither does pure household bleach) the concept of getting his own back and embarrassing Dan grows and grows, and takes shape when he discovers an unexpected ally in Dan’s best friend Boaz.
But once the plan is hatched and put into action, both have second thoughts. Should the efforts of the whole cast be overshadowed by their need to embarrass Dan publicly? Is it too late to stop?
There are now twelve books in the very popular Stuff Happens series, each written by a leading Australian author who has a sound track record of writing stories that boys enjoy. What appeals most is that each takes a very ordinary situation that everyone can relate to and builds a story from it that is both engaging and entertaining as well as thought-provoking. Each is also a great demonstration in writing about what you know – taking an ordinary everyday event and building it into a story with ordinary, everyday characters whom readers relate to. So often we tend to act first and think later, but the stories follow through on the consequences of the actions (or their potential) and perhaps give real-life readers pause for thought before they take that last step.
This is a series that really appeals to boys – it didn’t stay on the shelves, if it even got there as episodes were eagerly pounced on as soon as they were returned – and getting them enjoying reading with such quality stories is a match made in heaven.