The Peacock Detectives - Carly Nugent CBCA 2019 Shortlist
Continuing my plan to read all six of the CBCA 2019 Shortlist books for Younger Readers - I'm already doing better than last year!
I picked this one up assuming it was yet another young female detective novel. Don't get me wrong, I've loved plenty of those recently, but I was pleased to discover this was so much more! It reminded me of Boy Underwater by Adam Baron in the way it handled complex issues in a way that was accessible for younger readers.
Cassie lives with her sister Diana, who is fourteen-turning-fifteen, her mum who is an aspiring chef, and her dad, a high-school teacher. Cassie dreams of being a writer and happens to be great at finding her neighbours pet peacocks when they escape!
The story begins as Cassie writes about her journey to find next door's peacocks, but becomes so much more. She navigates the now-strained relationship with her sister who is becoming a teenager and finding herself. She also begins to discover the reality of her dad's mental health - living with her own moments of depression as her father battles it too. Throughout this, she discovers friendship in both old and unexpected places.
Rating: 5 out of 5!
Age suggestion: 9+ There are plenty of concepts that will go over the heads of younger students.
Ability range: 9+ again. The vocab is reasonably complex, but the author does a great job at explaining unfamiliar words without being condescending.
Content notes: I love the way Nugent explains depression. Both Cassie and her father experience 'those days', in which even things that normally bring them joy make them feel tired. There's also an element of her father hoarding in an attempt to relieve his depression, although the financial consequences are particularly tough on Cassie and her sister. Cassie's best friend Jonas is adopted and struggling with feeling part of his family. Her parents separate during the story, her mum moving in with her new boyfriend, although they may be reconciling at the end of the story. Diana is exploring Buddhism throughout the book, while her family is primarily Christian. The book itself explains each religion in a basic way without presenting any particular bias.
I feel like there may be content notes I've missed, but those are the main ones and I feel like each element is handled delicately, respectfully and written in a way that is accessible for the age group the book is aimed at.
An amazing contender for the Children's Book Council of Australia's book of the year award!
Check it out for yourself!