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Melissa Chilov
The Quoll, the Pobblebonk and the Big Race
For years, the Quoll and the Pobblebonk have been battling to claim ownership of the prized piece of bushland in the cave. They decide to have a Big Race to settle the score, once and for all. When Quoll's six pups go missing, she thinks this is one of Pobblebonk's nasty ploys to throw her off course. Will Quoll find her pups? Who will win the Big Race?
Chilov debuts with a charming story of the Australian bush—and the unique animals who make it their home. Ten-year-old Sam is a young boy with mischief on the mind; school is boring, pranks are the best, and he loves nothing more than exploring the bush with his treasure bucket—and best friend, Quoll. When the two run into trouble one day and Quoll’s pups go missing, Sam vows to help Quoll find them, no matter the cost. But neither realizes that will run them up against the fearsome Pobblebonk, a cranky frog with a serious attitude, who just happens to be Quoll’s archenemy.

For younger readers unfamiliar with Australia’s native animals, Chilov provides a brief description of the story’s two star creatures at the end: quolls are endangered nocturnal marsupials, and pobblebonks are carnivorous frogs named for the sounds they make. Throughout Chilov’s story, Pobblebonk plays the perfect villain, taunting Quoll and Sam, challenging them to races for ownership of his cave, and even risking Quoll’s life in a prank that turns deadly. That rivalry gives the story a faint whiff of danger, but friendship rules out in the end, as both Sam and Quoll learn not everyone should be judged on their reputation.

Chilov’s black and white illustrations showcase the animals and Sam rollicking in the Australian bush, whether it’s Quoll’s pups leapfrogging from lily pad to lily pad or Sam enjoying a friendly game of Monopoly with his pal. Pobblebonk is rendered crafty and imposing at the beginning, but as the book’s relationships undergo a transformation, so, too, does he—leaving him looking less ferocious and more harmless in the end. Chilov’s language is a fun montage of tongue-twisting, entertaining read-aloud material, perfect for young readers—as when Sam tells Pobblebonk he’s “sneakier than a slithering snake in a swamp.” This is a fun introduction to Australia’s adventurous landscape.

Takeaway: Rollicking Australian adventure with a young boy and his animal friends.

Comparable Titles: Carol Diggory Shields’s Wombat Walkabout, Alexander McCall Smith’s The Race to Kangaroo Cliff.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A