Review of ‘Drongoes’ of the ‘Mates: Great Australian Yarns’ series
Author: Christine Bongers
Illustrator: Dan McGuiness
Publisher: Omnibus Books
Age Range: newly independent readers, lower – middle primary
Themes: mateship, competition, selflessness, running, school, sport, asthma/breathing difficulties, school spirit
The ‘Mates: Great Australian Yarns’ series for newly independent readers are unashamedly Australian and would be perfect for a unit of work on Australian identity, particularly looking at Australian vernacular. The publishers of this series have teamed with some of our best writers and illustrators to produce humorous, high interest, well-packaged reads. They are stories which children (well Australian children anyway!) can see themselves in. Connecting personal experiences with story is mentioned throughout the literature strand of the National Curriculum: English, making the ‘Mates’ series a perfect choice for many students.
The ‘Mates’ series is squarely aimed at children making the transition from picture books to chapter books; though we never leave picture books behind. Full colour illustrations on each page, just the right amount of text, and words of interest in different fonts mean that newly independent readers will experience success with the now 16 titles in the ‘Mates’ series. Success with reading is such a crucial factor in the development of a lifelong love of reading.
The latest in the series arrived on my desk the other day and despite my ever growing pile of reading I devoured ‘Drongoes’ immediately.
Click on title links or cover image to purchase.
To say that Jack is pretty keen to beat Rocket Robson in this year’s cross country would be an understatement. Since Year One Rocket has humiliated Jack and his best friend Eric in each and every cross country…but Year Five is the year that they plan to succeed: Jack in winning the race; and Eric in finishing the race. Eric (AKA ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’) gets wheezy and out of breath every year and the teachers panic and pull him out. With a training routine underway, Jack and Eric plan to be in tip top shape.
But the real winner isn’t always the first over the line.
This is a ripper, bonza, beaut little story which celebrates the greatness of a good mate and the Australian spirit of having a go just for the sake of it. I will never again in any context use the words ripper, bonza or beaut…but in describing ‘Drongoes’ they are just right!
The word ‘drongo’ is beautifully explained at the conclusion of the story and this explanation is a great lead into a bit of research as a follow on reading extension activity.
Follow it up in the home, classroom or library:
- Write down the multiple meanings of the word drongo as outlined in the book.
- As an individual or class activity brainstorm some uniquely Australian words. Research their meaning and origin. Add to this list over time. The other books in the ‘Mates’ series will have some more you can add to your list.
- Research the racehorse ‘Drongo’
- Research the bird ‘Spangled Drongo’
- Can you think about a time when you sacrificed something for a mate?
- Can you be a winner even if you don’t come first? In what ways?
- Do you know anyone with asthma or breathing difficulties? Everyone has different challenges they struggle with. Describe the qualities in Eric and Jack that helped them to overcome their difficulties.
- Design your own training schedule to prepare for your school cross country or other sporting event.
- Read some other books in the ‘Mates’ series.