Devils in Danger, by Samantha Wheeler
This beautifully crafted middle grade novel captivated me from the opening page, where we meet the narrator, 11-year-old Killarney, and her mum. They are just finishing up dinner when a terrible scream explodes through the air. What on earth could it be? The reader is hooked in straight away, wanting to find out what exactly is going on.
This exciting opening sets the scene for a character-driven story about a young girl who discovers a wild Tasmanian Devil denning under her house. Killarney is immediately intrigued and fascinated, wanting to know more about these spirited and playful creatures. Unfortunately, it seems that not everybody is as excited about the new residents in her backyard as she is. Even Killarney's best friend Missy pulls away, refusing to share Killarney's enthusiasm for the Devils.
Will Killarney find a way to protect the Devils who are sharing her environment, and convince her friends and neighbours that Devils are not to be feared?
This story is told with humour and warmth, and skilfully blends facts about animals and the environment through the narrative. Young readers can learn about Tasmanian Devils, and some of the ways we can help protect our native wildlife, while at the same time losing themselves in a great story. I felt completely invested in Killarney's mission to protect the Devils and educate everyone around her to overcome their fears and negative opinions.
Killarney is a well-rounded and likeable protagonist. Young readers will enjoy Killarney's character development as the story progresses - and some may relate to the way in which she initially finds schoolwork and assignments boring. Killarney would much rather spend her days outdoors, exploring her environment. I loved seeing how her passion for the Devils inspires her to start keeping a journal about their habits and characteristics, so that she can educate both herself and others.
Young readers will learn through Killarney about having the courage to stand up for what you believe in, even when the odds are against you.
The supporting characters in this book are also well drawn and endearing characters - including Killarney's caring and supportive parents, her neighbours Grannie Annie and Noah, and April the wildlife zoologist.
Many young readers will no doubt relate to the moments of tension and misunderstandings Killarney experiences within her friendship group, which are realistically drawn and relatable for this age group.
Middle grade readers will also no doubt fall in love with and enjoy learning about the playful and captivating Tasmanian Devils. Curious young readers may be inspired to do more research about Devils and other Australian animals.
It is books like this one that help inspire our children to learn what steps they can take to help protect our environment and precious native wildlife.
This book would make a great addition to your home or school library.
Published by University of Queensland Press