“Gunnedah “Gunnie” Danson knows his family has been in the farming business for generations, but it’s not until he’s left a manuscript in his grandfather’s will does he learn how hard they’ve fought to stay in it. Gunnie starts to hope maybe Smokey’s diary can help the family once again. The quick pace of Gunnie and Smokey’s parallel boyish adventures keep readers anticipating the next cattle run or abandoned cattle station.
Smokey is a likable pin-up character for young male readers. It’s also Smokey’s relationship with other minor characters he meets on the road which “bring home” messages about family, especially those about family being more than people we are linked to with blood.
Gunnie’s role in the novel seems more minor, but his place in a more contemporary Australia serves to remind young readers that fears of drought still plague farmers today. Insight into how farmers have dealt with drought by walking the “long paddock” with their herds should be interesting for many readers given how little it has been explored in young adult fiction. Also easy to read with a helpful appendix at the end for self-driven readers, Gunnedah Hero is an arresting novel that will challenge young Aussie readers to learn more about their collective history.” Nikita McInnes
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