Updated: Sep 21, 2022
Title: The Sugarcane Kids and the Red-Bottomed Boat
Author: Charlie Archbold
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication Date: 1st March 2022
For ages: 8+ years
Themes: Friends, North Queensland, Theft, Family, Adventure, Danger, Courage, Teamwork, Mangroves, Boats, Crocodiles, Diversity, Friendship
South Australian author Charlie Archbold has written an exciting and entertaining novel perfect for middle grade readers. This new release, shortlisted for the Text Prize, is set in a small coastal town in far North Queensland surrounded by sugarcane fields and mangroves.
Andy and his best mate Eli are inseparable. They spend their days together, whether at school or home. Their friendship bond is strong and when Eli’s cousin Jacob is arrested for theft, the two boys decide to find out the truth before he is sentenced. They call on fraternal twins Bernie and Fletch to help them and together they develop a plan of action. However, after some clever sleuthing, they realise they will need the help of annoying classmate Harvey, who incidentally has not been a friend to Andy and Eli, and the five go on a dangerous boat journey to solve the mystery of the theft. At the red-bottomed boat half buried deep in the mangroves, they must deal with a monstrous crocodile to discover the truth and then face unpleasant adversaries on their return to the marina.
The fast action-packed pages of this engaging book will hold the reader’s interest until the end. The relationship between each of the very different young characters who come from diverse family backgrounds, consists of humour, gentle rivalry and friendship, as well as deep respect for Eli and his Indonesian family. The vivid descriptive language used to describe the surroundings in which the story is set will allow the reader to be transported to far North Queensland.
The Sugarcane Kids and the Red-Bottomed Boat would make a fabulous class novel. As well as being a great read there is so much to learn and discuss such as the behaviour of crocodiles, environmental issues, life in the tropics, friendships, bullying and importantly how to work collaboratively as a team. A delightful new book, hopefully a series, for those middle-grade readers who look for adventure, danger and overcoming challenging obstacles.
Reviewed by Kathryn Beilby