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I don't know what I expected from His Name Was Walter, the CBCA Book of the Year Winner for Younger Readers in 2019. What I go was a story about an orphan who lived his life for those around him, never shirking his responsibilities and always following his heart.
His Name Was Walter tells the story of Colin, Tara, Lucas, Grace and their school teacher Mrs Fiori. They find themselves stuck in a rundown old mansion overnight after their mini-bus breaks down. In a hidden drawer in a desk, Colin finds a beautifully illustrated, handwritten fairy tale. As everyone takes turns in reading it, the old house on the hill becomes haunted by visits from the characters in the storybook.
I enjoyed this story. It's the first Emily Rodda book I've read. I bought it based on the fact it won Childrens' Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Younger Readers. As someone who aspires to write entertaining books for the same market, it made sense to me to read what those at the top of their game are achieving.
I'd say this book is aimed at the upper end of the readers' age limits given the nature of the story. It's hard to fault such an emotional and moving story. It was sad, it was touching, and it was ultimately highly satisfying.
Plans go awry when unexpected car trouble interrupts a group of four school children and their teacher’s excursion to a small historical town. Stuck on a deserted road, and with a storm looming large, the small group seeks shelter in a nearby farmhouse. The cottage is under renovation, with old furniture, building supplies and various bit and pieces scattered throughout. While looking for a safe place in the house to camp for the night, the children come across an old writing desk, in which they discover a secret panel, containing a mysterious book. To keep themselves entertained, they begin reading the handwritten and illustrated book. Set in a fairy-tale format, the story follows the adventures of a young orphan named Walter. As they read the book they uncover the many mysteries of the house, the local town, and the boy called Walter. Although I am aware that it is not good form to judge a book by its cover, I absolutely adored the presentation of “His Name was Walter”. My version is a hardcover with a beautiful marbled blue and green background. It reminded me of the covers of the Enid Blyton books I loved as a child and really added to the magic of the story. The book is a little difficult to categorise at first, as its story has elements of a standard drama, supernatural thriller, and a fairy-tale. With the bulk of the action evolving around uncovering Walter’s tale and the links to the history of the town, it is best described as a mystery. The plot flows evenly and is engaging from start to finish. Rodda’s style of descriptive writing allows the reader to feel a part of every scene. The story has an Australian feel, without being clichéd, and could be set in almost any small rural town in the country. The characters (both the children and their teacher, and the characters in the book they find) are relatable, believable and a good mix of everything that makes up a group of average school-aged children. The teacher is exactly how I remember educators with a love of history to be, firm but understanding, strict but with a sense of curiosity and adventure. Emily Rodda has written over fifty books for children of all ages and in various formats. “His Name Was Walter” won the 2019 Children’s Book Council of Australia’s “Book of the Year Award for Younger Readers”, a prize much deserved. “His Name Was Walter” by Emily Rodda would make a wonderful gift for a younger child (5-12 years), but is a fabulous story for readers of any age. I received a free copy of this book through Sisters in Crime - Australia, in exchange for a fair and honest review.