Review: Devils In Danger

Samantha Wheeler’s philosophy that ‘Everyone can make a difference’ not only appears in all of her eco-themed middle grade novels, it inspires youngsters to strive determinedly and dream big. Devils in Danger embodies this notion in forest-fulls namely, Tasmanian forests.

Grader sixer, Killarney is not a lover of school. She believes learning is best left to those without ambitions of becoming an ace hairdresser, like she has. Using her talented hair-styling mother as a role model, Killarney struggles to involve herself in studies, preferring the robust life of walking the neighbour’s dog around her Tasmanian hometown when not performing barista duties for her mother’s clients.

When the horrific screaming and yelping begins, Killarney’s family are thrown into confusion. Could a murderer be on the loose in their sleepy township? Why would a murderer steal towels and scarves? Killarney soon discovers the cause of the hellish night noises and mysterious going-ons with the help of a visiting Uni professor. A wild endangered Tasmania devil is denning under her house.

I pause here to emphasise the spectacle this represents for a young person. Whilst living in Far North Queensland as a kid, I encountered a visiting echidna in our backyard. My baby sister and I climbed to the highest point of our slippery dip to avoid its ‘deadly spines’ reasoning that the slippery incline would be make it too hard to pursue us should attack ensue. Mum dutifully ushered it into a metal garbage can and calmly called parks and wildlife. Eventually they showed us how to ‘pat’ said echidna without hysterics or fear. It was an exciting and thrilling moment in our young lives, one I’m sure Killarney experienced as well the first time she peered into the eyes of her devil. Unlike our naïve reaction, Killarney’s devilish moment sparked a feverish desire to learn record and ultimately, preserve the new little mother.

The demystifying of creatures perceived with fear and ignorance into something to be revered and cherished is what Wheeler does so well. Devil facts are woven through a storyline that at its heart aims to promote knowledge and understanding but is tied together with enough humor and tension to keep you page turning. Killarney’s devotion to Fern (aka mama devil) and her imps (aka baby devils) threatens her friendships, inhibits her homework regime even more and causes deep rifts among the townsfolk. Trying to convince them that devils are not the dangerous, cat-eating creatures they’re deemed to be is daunting but she does not give up. Her convictions to save them are reinforced each time she watches Fern frolic with her babies, who by the way are seriously cute.

If you love conservational type tales heightened with drama and dressed in good causes, you’ll get a lot out of Devils In Danger. Primary school-aged readers will encounter the meaning of empathy and, as Killarney’s facts file grows, come to care for and know the Tassie devil as fiercely as Killarney. Eventually, this caring spreads throughout the community emphasising humility and humanity but be warned; as with life, not all victories sing success. Reality may cause tears and heartbreak but it also sharpens resolve. Wheeler writes real but leaves ample room for hope in a tale that both inspires and uplifts, enough so that it will make a difference to the way you view Tasmania devils and our place in their lives.

Title: Devils in Danger
Author: Samantha Wheeler
Publisher: UQP, $14.99
Publication Date: 3 August 2021
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780702263293
For ages: 7+
Type: Middle Grade Fiction

Buy the Book: UQP, Boomerang Books

Unfortunately the Queensland Book Launch of Devils In Danger was cancelled as a result of recent SE QLD lockdowns. Keep an eye on your social channels for updates of the next event for this exciting adventure tale.


Anonymous said…
Greetings, earthling!
Cant stay long.
Dang gotta git.
Juss wanna shar witchoo
wots looming, dear:
♡ ♡
-GBY x-tra!

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