Harry Kruize, Born to Lose (Paul Collins, Ford Street)
Harry feels like a born loser: his dad walked out of his life and never looked back, the school bully has Harry squarely in his sights, and his sessions with the school counsellor seem never-ending. But the worst thing of all is that, no matter how much he begs, his mum won’t let him have a dog. And then the larrikin Jack Ellis moves into the back shed, bringing with him a fresh perspective and an endless supply of dog-related yarns. Harry’s friendship with the old bushman is like a touch of magic that starts to turn Harry’s life around, but can it last? Even though the more jaded among us might wonder if middle fiction needs yet another book written in a diary format, this book manages to stand out from the crowd thanks to its genuine warmth and humour. This is a story that touches on a lot of serious issues—divorce, depression, bullying—but Harry’s lively narration means the story never grows too heavy. The short stories throughout (each one starring a remarkable canine) are inspired by the works of Henry Lawson and lend the narrative a unique sense of charm. Quintessentially Australian with witty, memorable characters, Harry Kruize, Born to Lose is a highly recommended read for ages 10 and up; reluctant readers in particular will find much to love here.
Holly Harper is a children’s bookseller