This heartfelt and moving book for middle grade readers is a story of family and friendship and loss and caring for the environment. It is also a story about having the courage to stand up and fight for change, even when it feels like the odds are against you.
Bailey Finch and her beloved dog Sheba spend their afternoons at the creek, exploring and swimming. The creek is special to Bailey. She and her parents used to come to the creek regularly for picnics and to play with Sheba. Bailey's mum had opened her eyes to the magic of the creek - they'd examined birds nests and beetles, and sat with their feet in the water.
But it's been a year since Bailey's mum has died, and Bailey's dad doesn't come to the creek anymore.
He doesn't seem to care about anything anymore. Bailey feels like she's alone to navigate her own grief and friendship troubles at school.
But then Sheba swallows something while swimming in the creek and gets sick - so sick that her life hangs in the balance. This opens Bailey's eyes to all the rubbish polluting the creek. Bailey knows she needs to try to make the creek safe for other animals to swim in.
With the help of her new friend, the quiet animal-loving Israel, Bailey might just find a way to stand up and make a difference.
This is a gently told and beautifully written story, which even while it shines a light on the impact of loss and grief on families, also shimmers with hope - portraying the way in which friendship and love can provide strength and healing.
Bailey's immersion in helping to care for the creek beautifully reflects the healing that is slowly taking place inside herself.
Having the courage to care for her environment and educate others provides a new sense of strength and hope.
Bailey is a wonderfully drawn protagonist who young readers will readily relate to. She is determined and kind and speaks to the reader in an authentic voice as she expresses her worries about her drifting friendships at school, Sheba being sick, and her dad's lingering sadness.
I also adored Israel, the gentle observant 'creek-schooled' boy, who also finds a new source of strength in his friendship with Bailey.
Published by Text Publishing