Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler by Lisa Shanahan

"It struck Henry that the world was a little bit like a bag of mixed lollies: always full of some kind of surprise."

The Grand Summer of Henry Hoobler is packed full with delicious words. It is a book that is just begging to be read aloud.

Holy Kamoley
Holy Polymoley
Holy Wamoley
Holy Slamoley

Henry is a worrier. He extrapolates every situation into a full blown catastrophe. Henry is on a summer holiday with his family. It is the end of Year Two and he has been given a bike for Christmas. Henry is terrified of failure. This new bike seems so hard to ride now that he cannot rely on trusty training wheels.

"The bike. It was not cool. It was the very worst thing. It was his biggest problem, even more terrifying than bugs and spiders and snakes and stingers and blue-ringed octopi and tsunamis and sharks and stingrays and whale sharks!"

Luckily Henry has the most marvellous family.

His dad is a bundle of energy and positivity.

"Son of my heart (he) stepped forward and hugged Henry. And the hug was so big and bear-like and fierce ... he felt his dad's delight. He felt it soak all the way through, like butter into hot bread."

Mum senses when Henry is anxious and seems to be able to say just the right thing at the right time.

"His mum was good at knowing things inside him that he didn't even have words for yet. There was something reassuring about that, like he was a trapeze artist in a circus, swinging through the sky, with the biggest, strongest safety net in the whole universe stretched out wide to catch him."

Brother Patch is patient and kind and little sister Lulu is full of love for life, her toy ponies and her brother.

"Lulu flung her arms around his waist and squinched him tight, for ages and ages, until all Henry could smell was her apple shampoo."

On their first day at the camping ground Henry meets Cassie and what a wonderful friend she will prove to be. She shows Henry all of the best places down near the water and around the camp and gently helps him overcome his fears. Every one needs a friend like Cassie but of course she is not perfect. Her life has had sadness and disappointment and so this is her summer of change too.

I especially enjoyed the chapter where Patch taught Henry to ride (A Bright Loud Life) and the scenes when Henry finds the courage to set out at night searching, with Lulu, for her lost pony called Clover. You can see her here. (These chapters are called Lost and Found).  If you need to read an extract from this book to a class these scenes would be a good starting point.

Here is a splendid review which says everything I wanted to say and more.  The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler is one of our 2018 CBCA Notables for Younger Readers. Even if it does not make the short list of six I recommend you add this title to your own reading list and then share it (aloud) with a young audience. I would follow this book with The Horrible Holiday by Catherine Jinks.

I was excited to see this book won first prize in the Queensland literary Awards.  The judges report says :

This tale reminds us that everyone is different and everyone has gifts. Some, like Henry, prefer to learn quietly but even extroverts can be fearful.

Here is an extended interview where Joy Lawn talks with Lisa Shanahan.

Lisa Shanahan imbues warmth and gentle humour into her authentic stories and relateable characters.  Children's Books Daily

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