I found this debut novel compelling reading, right from page one..... it is as though you are at Danny's shoulder, experiencing life in the outback through his eyes.
As a young teenager of the same age living on the South coast of Australia some years back, I had no idea of the hardships and yet raw adventure to be had on the huge cattle stations in the arid interior of the continent. This book reveals the courage, competence and co-operation of the folks "outback" in the day-to-day business of survival.
The sense of awe is personified by the arrival into the Dawson homestead of a young Pommie (Liz) who is hired by Mrs Dawson (Sue) to be a domestic help and child carer to the youngest child (Emily) when Danny's sister (Sissy) is found to be pregnant at the age of 14. She is clueless to begin with, and Danny's intolerance of her introduces humour to his narrative. Other members of the family together with the station fellas are more forgiving, and she gradually learns to adapt. Liz is initially shocked by the gory aspects of ranch life in the raw (animals have a tougher time than the humans) and she is vegetarian....she shows that she is not a wimp, however, and is perceptive of Danny's needs - encouraging him to talk about the brother (Jonny) and playmate he has recently lost. She also has a more liberal attitude about the "gins" - (aboriginals) - but soon discovers there is an outback "apartheid" that allows the blackfellas as co-workers and friends, but definately NOT as co-habitors!
Without giving too much of the plot away - all hell breaks out when the baby's father is found out. This is overshadowed by the intense drama of the annual muster of the massive herd. Mum and Auntie Ve are strong characters - they are the "water on the fire" - calming things when the pressure is on. Dad is a powerful man, respected by his fellow stockmen, but with a short fuse. The relationship he has with his remaining son is a complex one and wonderfully portrayed in Danny's own words.
Danny is such a believable teenager - and he has a wonderful rapport with an orphan camel (Buzz) he is allowed to keep as a pet.
There is a note on the price label that this book is "Unsuitable for younger readers". I disagree with this.
Anyone over 8 years of age should be able to appreciate it's truths. It would undoubtedly broaden their imaginative horizons.....how can that be bad for them?
I'm not letting on (to non Aussies) what EVERYBODY JAM is.....like Liz, you will find out when you get to know the Dawson family!