Zola is sad to hear that her classmates 100-year-old turtle is missing. Inspired by the sniffer dog, Vesper, who lives next door she unleashes her cousin’s dog, Gigi. Things soon get out of control and Zola forgets her road rules. Will everyone come home safely? Will they find the missing turtle?
Zola and her cousin Alessandro try very hard to be good, but sometimes their plans lead them into trouble. Luckily, they have plenty of friendly people in the neighbourhood to provide guidance and assistance. They are a thriving collaborative community reflecting the diversity of our suburbs.
Melina Marchetta has previously drawn on her own experience of the multicultural experience in Australia, authoring a defining novel more than 20 years ago that resonated with teenagers struggling to come of age in households that were already strained because of tradition and expectations. That novel, Looking For Alibrandi, was made into a feature film and has been included on school booklists continuously since its release.
Melina once again draws on her experience in an Australian-Italian family to show us the intricacies of relationships and the strength of family. Indeed, it was family that inspired this series. Melina’s daughter was a reluctant reader and so Melina wrote this story about characters that her daughter would relate to and recognise, in the hope that it would help her daughter enjoy reading.
This book is the third in the series. There will be seven in entirety – one for every day of the week. It is beautifully illustrated by Deb Hudson, and the illustrations are generously placed so that newly independent readers can rely on pictures to assist them with context. I particularly like the delicately designed jacket and the pretty nameplate inside the front cover – little touches that add to the value of book ownership in my view.
There are some lovely scenes in the book that I found particularly charming: reading the street signs on the way to school, dreaming of the delicious afternoon tea treats that the knitting group share, getting to know the neighbour’s dog, and bottling olives. It’s life in the suburbs and it’s vibrant and familiar to many Australian children.
There’s also a lot included that will resonate with contemporary kids, regardless of ethnicity or location. The themes of kindness, compassion, co-operation and community are universal across our diverse society and so I would recommend this book for any reader, boy or girl, aged 6+.