Runaways by Sherryl Clark
Published by Penguin Books Australia
We begin with Cassie’s perspective. Through her eyes, we see just how life is for her and her little brother Jack and the only word to describe it is bleak. Both kids get in trouble a lot, both at school and at home.
When their Dad return’s flashing fifty dollar notes, Jack thinks everything is going to be great. Dad tells Jack he can go on holiday with him, Jack leaps at the chance. Cassie knows better. She knows her dad is a fraud.
She begs her mum to stop them going, but soon realises, her mum is the reason her Dad returned.
Jack sets off with his Dad, despite Cassie’s warning. A few days into their “holiday,” Jack realises that his Dad really has no intention of taking care of him.
Meanwhile, Cassie is beside herself with worry at home. She comes to the dreadful realisation that she is all Jack has, that her mum is incapable of caring for them both.
In desperation, Jack packs up his backpack and hitches a ride in the cabin of a truck. While the driver is out of the truck for a pit stop, Jack grabs his phone and calls Cassie. He has a plan. Cassie will meet him in Adelaide.
Thankfully when the driver discovers Jack, he has compassion, and delivers him safely to Adelaide. When the two kids reunite, my heart was glad, but somehow, I knew their story wasn't over yet.
Jack’s great plan is to find their way to Grandad house. Cassie worries that Jack is going to get the disappointment of a lifetime, when he realises Grandad probably doesn't want them either.
When they arrive, Grandad’s house is empty. They stay a few days, when something awful happens. A grassfire is raging out of control and approaching the house.
The two resourceful kids wet down the yard, saving Grandad’s house from the oncoming destruction. Grandad eventually comes home and is pretty uncertain as to what to do with the kids. Cassie, takes her stand, she will not return home without Jack, and if her mum won’t accept Jack home, then they will fend for themselves.
Mum finally comes to Grandad’s house and we discover that she has fallen on hard times, lost her job, and is really not capable of caring for the kids.
Grandad suggests the kids stay with him, until Mum sorts herself out. Cassie and Jack finally feel loved and accepted in Grandad’s house, which was such a relief for me.
I was so taken by these two characters. Such young kids to be dealing with these kinds of issues, but in reality, so many children in our very back yards deal with this every day. Sherryl Clark has written both Cassie and Jack so true to life, in the way that they think, feel and express their emotions.
I believe kids who have experienced this kind of rejection, as well as kids who haven’t, can still gain a lot from reading this book. The overarching theme is that the kids stick together, they fend for themselves and they never give up on each other.
I think this is a great book for kids to learn compassion for others in this situation, as well as to realise that there truly are children from families just like this. I certainly felt pain along the journey with these children. I hope that reading this kind of book would alert children to the harsh reality of our society today, as well as give them tools to find ways to express themselves, if they realise they are in a similar situation.
A truly heart felt read that had me tearing up at the end, as these two average, but very endearing characters find some light in the darkness.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Sherryl Clark
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Published: March 2013