The Shop at Hoopers Bend is a story with a distinctively Australian flavour, infused with eucalyptus smells, cicada sounds, and nostalgia for simpler times. Written by Emily Rodda, one of Australia’s premier storytellers, having authored or co-authored over ninety books for children, this atmospheric tale centres around a forgotten country shop and the serendipitous events which bring it back to life.
“And in the front of the shop, sitting on the narrow step like ghosts of the past, were a skinny girl and a chunky little white dog with black spots.”
Quil – short for Jonquil – is an orphaned eleven-year-old who is inexplicably drawn to the abandoned country store at Hooper’s Bend. There, she befriends the shop’s new owner, Bailey. Quil feels right at home at Hooper’s Bend, but isn’t sure why. These opening chapters reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s talent for seamlessly blending the everyday with the magical. The shop is almost a character in its own right, thanks to Rodda’s vivid descriptions.
“Memories seemed to swirl thickly in the air, like the dust motes that glittered in the light shining through the cracks in the blinds.”
The busy highway which runs right by the shop serves as a constant signal that change is coming and trouble is brewing. For much of the book, Quil and Bailey are kept busy thwarting scheming agendas to buy and bulldoze the shop.
Orphaned Quil has her own special way of categorising people’s traits, one which helps her make sense of the world and the people she encounters throughout the story. There are few children about, but Pirate, the feisty dog who follows Quil’s every step, proves a loyal companion.
Hoopers Bend is full of country hospitality, but also holds plenty of secrets. Quil’s sharp wits prove instrumental in helping solve the mystery at the centre of the novel. The Shop at Hoopers Bend is a satisfying read for both young and old, with its timeless tale about new life, new hope and new beginnings.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Foster
Emily Rodda has skilfully woven tiny threads one after the other to complete this masterful tapestry of ordinary people uncovering extraordinary events. Her characterisations are superb and her setting so powerful the readers can imagine them inside the story along with Quil.
This is going to be a huge winner with readers I predict and quite easily the kind of book that will sit well with teachers for use in Readers Circles and the like. Themes of trust, honesty, inclusivity, friendship and simple pleasures will lend themselves well to discussions. Beautifully written and accessible to readers from around nine years upwards this is likely to be a title of note in the next twelve months.
Reviewed by Sue Warren
The Shop at Hoopers Bend by Emily Rodda
HarperCollins Australia, ISBN 9781460753668
Published 29 July 2017, $16.99 (pbk)
Emily Rodda will be a guest author at the HarperCollins Melbourne Education Evening for Teachers and Librarians on Thursday 24 August 2017. For more information and registration details please click here.