1 Sep. 2021
Paperback / softback
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Age range 10 to 15
Banjo Tully hasn’t ever given much thought to climate change. But when he meets self-described ‘conservation nut’ Mai Le — after the worst drought in living memory puts his future in jeopardy — Banjo sets out on an 800-kilometre solo horse ride. It’s a journey that might not only save his family’s farm, but could also change the planet.
Teachers' notes available here
InformationBook Type: Junior High
Age Group: 11 to 15 years
Traffic Lights: Green/Amber
Class Novel: No
Good Reads Rating: 4.5/5
Literary Rating: 4/5
It's ride-to-school day, and the townie kids are going to get a free movie voucher for riding their bikes to school. Banjo Tully lives on a farm 20km out of town, so that isn’t feasible for him. In protest he rides his horse Milly, kickstarting a chain of events that will lead to him becoming the face of a climate action movement.
When Banjo rides to school, his parents are called. They insist that he bring her home immediately; they’ve arranged a buyer in Gippsland for Milly as they can’t afford her feed. Banjo’s parents had to sell off all their cattle the year before due to the oppressive drought. Angry at the thought of losing Milly so quickly, Banjo decides to ride herto his grandmother’s so that she can live there instead.
On his way he meets Mai Le, a climate change activist from the grade above him in school. She points out that the reason for the drought is climate change, and that there’s a climate summit in Canberra coming up soon. She suggests that he crowdfund the money to keep Milly by riding her to Canberra to speak to the politicians.
On the way Banjo raises $14,000 and gains attention from the media. People help him, some out of country kindness and some because of his amazing story. He feels like a fraud, and considers turning back, but the people he meets and the things that he sees help him to realise that the drought affects everyone in different ways. He decides that this issue is bigger than just him and he has to continue. Upon reaching Canberra he decides to let Milly retire to Gippsland. He meets his parents and Mai and goes to meet the PM.
A funny yet heartfelt tale. Banjo's initial reluctance to become embroiled in the climate emergency and his eventual realisation that he can’t, in good conscience, refuse to speak up for his future echoes the dilemma faced by many young people in the modern age. As he says to the media, he intends to urge the politicians to think of their children—they’re the ones who will be faced by the consequences of their actions.
Though his view of rural Australia exposes many hardships faced by adults currently trying to support themselves—from farmers who can’t plant fields due to dust storms or lack of water to people who operate shops and tourist towns who no longer have any traffic—Banjo's turning point is realising that he needs to be a good role model for people even younger than him.
activism, climate change, rural Australia, drought, travel, journeys
1. Banjo is offered a beer which he doesn’t take (p. 189). 2. “Munted” x 1