Author/Illustrator: Trace Balla
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Comments: Rockhopping is the follow up to Trace Balla’s award winning Rivertime. Fans of Clancy and Uncle Egg are sure to enjoy their second adventure together through the Grampians. As with Rivertime, this is a lengthy picture book, sitting at 80 pages! (Most picture books are set at 32.) The layout and style are consistent with the previous text, incorporating comic style frames of varying sizes and formats throughout. These features alone make the text suited particularly to mid primary students in Years 3-5.
There is a lot to like about Rockhopping. Trace Balla’s endpapers are always a treat, and these are no exception. The opening papers depict birds and animals included in the text, while the closing papers comprise of insects, amphibians, fish and plants. Although I am well known as a birdnerd, it’s actually Balla’s illustrations of fungi and moss I enjoyed most. The Indigenous reference preceding the narrative is worth reading, and should be shared when reading aloud.
My only criticism is that the text is possibly a little too long. While it shouldn’t be restricted to a 32 page spread, I think the 80 pages present a challenge for some readers. The adventure doesn’t begin until page 12, and the action really kicks in on page 32 when Clancy falls. By page 39, when Clancy finds himself completely alone in the bush, readers will be fully engaged. However, this is a fairly slow start to a lengthy picture book and some readers may lose interest.
Readers who persist will be swept up in the journey. Highlights for me include the timeline on pages 70-71 (very useful for teachers), and the clever spread on page 75 requiring readers to turn the book. I also enjoyed the delightful dialogic exchange between Clancy and Uncle Egg on page 55.
“I thought woop woop was like the middle of nowhere… but I’ve realised woop woop is actually somewhere. It’s just not so full up with people and buildings and traffic and stuff. It’s all naturey instead.”
“Mmm… I suppose everywhere was woop woop before us humans came and unwooped it with roads and skyscrapers and stuff.”
I’m adding “unwooped” to my vocab.
Rockhopping is a useful text for middle primary classrooms, and nature loving families will enjoy it too. I certainly look forward to the next of Clancy and Uncle Egg’s adventures.
Teacher Tip: Download the handy Pocket Identification Guide from the Allen and Unwin website. The teachers’ notes also provide some interesting cross curricula ideas.
*I received a review copy of Rockhopping courtesy of Allen and Unwin. No payment was received for review and all comments are based on my own professional opinion.