John M W Smith
on Oct. 11, 2015 :
Before I read this book my knowledge of a bandicoot was confined to a distant recollection of an old computer game called Crash Bandicoot.
In fact a bandicoot is a marsupial, an infraclass of mammals which carry their young in a pouch---except that a baby bandicoot’s mother has an upside-down pouch and no, the baby bandicoot doesn’t fall out because unlike a kangaroo, its mother walks not on two legs but on all four. Why an upside down pouch, then? Well, it’s to prevent baby bandicoot from getting sprayed with soil when mummy digs the earth with her forelimbs to find food. How wonderful is evolution, no?
There is so much that a writer must painstakingly develop when introducing a human character in order to successfully create empathy with the reader; Tone of voice. Gestures. Facial expressions. Speech, which includes accent, way of speaking and exactly what is said. Physical appearance. Dress. Background. Likes and dislikes.Twitches and mannerisms. You name it, a writer has to get everything just so to create that essential bond that makes the reader begin to care what happens to that character. But not so with an animal, and the smaller the animal the better. All you have to do is to describe a bandicoot’s big brown eyes, its long snout and cuddly size, and you’ve already done enough to get the reader hooked. Instant emotional connection. Hardly any effort required. Not surprising that evolution is at work here, too. For we are all protective of the smaller, the weaker, the more vulnerable, for how else would they survive if we were not so? Good old evolution. Where would we be without it!
And, as the title suggests, this engrossing book is all about a young girl’s trials and tribulations when trying to protect and preserve a tiny creature no bigger than a mouse and very much resembling a shrew.
The younger we are, the stronger our passions, our emotions and sensitivities, and therefore the greater our inability to objectively deal with hurt and injury---which is only one of the reasons why it is so important for parents to be kind to their children. Molly is a typical girl of her age, and I found her behaviour in no way odd or extreme. At great risk to herself and much inconvenience to the people in her life she champions the cause of a creature little bigger than her thumb. And, grown up as I am, I could understand every move she made. Every step she took. So immersed was I that I grew increasingly vexed with the grown-ups (patient though they were) for not seeing everything quite from Molly’s point of view.
Expertly leaving the ending of each chapter on a cliff-hanger, the author takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of highs and lows---but here’s the rub---she managed to keep even a developing cynic like me from predicting how the story would end, tragically or happily. It could have gone either way. And I was kept guessing until the end. I can think of no higher compliment to this writer’s abilities than to acknowledge her talent at keeping me in this state of anxious and bitter-sweet limbo until the very last page. Excellent pacing. My interest never flagged. My connection with every character only increased as I turned the pages. Young girls will find this book utterly absorbing, of that I have no doubt. I mean, look what it did to me!
(reviewed the day of purchase)