Book Club: Rockhopping

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Author: Trace Balla
ISBN: 978-1-76011-234-9
RRP: $24.99

Rockhopping is the first childrens picture book that we have used for a book club title and it was an amazingly engaging read. I will admit right from the outset that I haven’t read it with any of the children yet but I plan to do exactly that tomorrow. I did try with the 2 year old but he doesn’t have the concentration, he needs vibrant colours, great pictures and hardly any words.

Trace Balla has written, and illustrated, an informative and educational story set along the Glenelg River in Victoria that is gentle and engaging. I was certainly entranced, and would love to go visit the area.

Rockhopping is suitable for ages 8+, I think you could definitely read it with a younger child but it would depend on their concentration span and focus really. The illustrations are realistic and use earthy colours. They don’t jump out at you and they are quite busy, with lots of little details. It would be a great opportunity to refocus I think, if your young reader is losing concentration you could stop reading and start looking at the pictures and seeing what you can find on the page.

Clancy and his Uncle Egg, who were the lead characters in Balla’s 2014 childrens book Rivertime, decide it’s time to head off on another adventure. Their first adventure, canoeing, was Uncle Egg’s idea and it sparked the idea for this 80 page adventure to find the source of the Glenelg River.

Rockhopping takes us through a largely untouched Victorian bushland area, and gently teaches us about the animals, the history and a little of the Indigenous people of Victoria. I was as in love with the illustrations, which labelled all the bushland creatures, as with the text.

80 pages does seem like quite a lot for a picture book but when you get caught up in the story it doesn’t seem like that many, and it is set out in a comic strip format so it isn’t overly wordy.

Uncle Egg and Clancy do some training in the city before heading off on their Grampians adventure, they pack everything they will need, they make a plan, set a course and set off. Even with the best laid plans things sometimes end up sending you off course, that’s what happened to Clancy and Uncle Egg, so they had to find a new plan or just go with the flow.

Six nights they spend on their adventure and we watch as the walking is ever so tiring, and the hiking gear seem to get heavier until the body seems to reset and Clancy becomes more energetic and involved with the environment around him. He begins to revel in the natural world surrounding him, appreciate the stars above and the fresh water and pay attention to the animals to help him find where he needs to be.

A week out in nature, away from electricity and technology and progress reignites the imagination, the willingness to just be; not to go anywhere or do anything but just to be; at one with nature, bare foot and hopping over the rocks.

Rockhopping shows us that sometimes when you get lost it’s just a chance to change your perspective and go a different way, and sometimes when you go a different way you get to see and experience a whole range of things you otherwise would have missed.

A gorgeous romp through the mountains on a quest to find the source of the river, and certainly enough to make me want to read Balla’s other books.

Thanks to Allen & Unwin 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading Rockhopping so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments.

Rockhopping is book #19 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016;

Rockhopping is available now through Allen & Unwin, Booktopia, Angus & Robertson Bookworld and where all good books are sold.

20 thoughts on “Book Club: Rockhopping

  1. I can honesty say I LOVE this book Uncle Egg and Clancy go on an adventure walking to the Grampians, the book is just wonderful from start to finish, superbly illustrated with the names under each picture inside the front and back cover and also throughout the book,when Clancy got the leech on her leg had to laugh same thing happened to me when I was a child dad used a lighted match to remove the leech, I am also reading to the kids each night they are also loving this book,we keep having to go back pages to reread as the kids think they might have missed something ( we haven’t ) I think the kids will be reading this book for quite a while as they are finding it fascinating as I did, thank you Trace Balla for writing such a great aussie book

  2. Rockhopping. I have just finished this delightful book. What a wonderful informative and interesting book full of wonderful illustration children would appreciate , I would love to take the children to explore the Grampians and they could relive some of the moments in the book. The humor was delightfully done. Learning names of fauna and plant life was visually easy to see, A book read by older children and then re read to younger peers for all to enjoy. It would be wonderful if more children had the opportunity to just be somewhere to be still and enjoy nature .Will definatley pass on to my grandchildren

  3. Well, what can I say …. this book is funny, engaging, and well worth the 10+ times we have read it. From my 4 year old to 11 year old it has rapidly become a family favourite. The pictures which support the story are captivating and enable my 4 year old to easily follow the story whilst my older children are always finding something new in them. I highly recommend this fantastic book which explores the wonderful environment around the Grampians, educating the kids without them even knowing!

    I loved it!

  4. My 11 yr old daughter and I read this book together over a few days, taking it in turn to read sections of the book out loud to each other.
    We both thoroughly enjoyed the storyline and illustrations.
    We have been to the Grampians quite a few years ago, and after reading Rockhopping, it has inspired me to want to take my family there again.
    My daughter loved that the book’s setting (the Grampians), was in our state of Victoria, and she loved learning about the Grampians and names of flora/fauna.
    We weren’t aware that Uncle Egg and Clancy have ‘starred’ in another picture book, but we both agree that we are looking forward to reading Rivertime as we loved both the characters.
    The format of the book was great, especially the detailed illustrations.
    We would highly recommend this book because the story keeps you very interested. Because there are many dimensions to the story, there would be a different reading experience every time.
    Thanks so much for the opportunity to review this, I must admit it has been a while since I read any books with my 11 yr old (as she usually reads independently), so reading it together was a lovely experience.

  5. I loved reading Rockhopping by Trace Bella. I had organised to read it with my friends two boys aged 8 and 12 years. The children were both mostly riveted to the story of Clancy and Uncle Egg and their adventures trekking in the Victorian Grampians.
    They both loved the book cover and the lovely little illustrations inside the front cover with all the animals named. They had a giggle over some of the names and the older boy said he was glad they were with names he might know. They did struggle with some of the aboriginal names but were happy the other names were written next to them.
    The book is very well written and easy to read. the 12 year old was fascinated through the entire book but the 8 year old got a bit distracted. He became interested again when we had to turn the book on the side to read where Clancy and Uncle Egg were climbing the steep climb. They both loved that.
    Overall the book was enjoyed a lot by the older boy and when we finished reading it he asked if he could keep it to read again and he would read it to his brother and they could look at the pictures again. I told him he could definitely keep it. The younger boy said it was good.
    Thank you so much Beauty & Lace for having the chance to read this book with my friends children, something that I have really missed since my son has grown up and my Grandchildren live in another state.

  6. What wonderful references to culture and native australia. My son is nearly10 yrs old and this was a great book to capture his imagination and attention. We loved looking at all the creatures even before the story started. Great mum and son time for us and I think everyone should go rockhopping and get inquisitive about these surroundings as we can really learn a lot while having fun. I think this book should be in all primary schools as it has a very Aussie iconic feel.
    We liked the busy page’s, sideways pages, comic style and adventure of this whole book.
    Now if you’d excuse me, I’m off to get my son a magnifying glass 🙂
    Thanks Beauty and Lace and the wonderful Trace Balla, Allen and Unwin seen the potential for sure.

  7. Mr 8 loved this book his fave character was Clancy because he’s”brave, questioning and cool”
    Clancy showed lots of grit and determination and he loved the natures studying.

    to him this book was not a book that he would generally go for but the comic style really captured his attention

  8. We have really enjoyed reading this gorgeous book Rockhopping together at story time. My two little girls love the intricate detail in almost all pages, learning the names of native fauna and flora, the cheeky sense of humour and little jokes scattered throughout. I was not sure how they’d react to the comic type style of the book as this was new to them, but I was pleased to see they loved it and rather then turning them off it they become more enthralled.
    The information contained in the story is brilliant too, along with the plants and animals, the historical and geographical details are great. My husband was chuffed to see Rockland’s Reservoir (a site of many family camps as a kid) included, and the mouth of the glenelg brought back my own memories of school kayaking camp!
    We love camping and mucking around in the bush. This wonderful book has not only provided hours of interest and entertainment but I feel a Grampians family holiday coming on!!
    Thanks to Beauty and Lace, Trace Balla and Allen and Unwin for this gem of a book.

  9. “Rockhopping” is a really great kids book, with just one minor reservation.

    I read this book with my kids, aged 3, 5 and 8. Miss Three kind of got the gist but wasn’t really interested. Masters 5 and 8, however, were riveted. The book is aimed at older kids, so that was fair enough – I’d say that most kids under 5 wouldn’t get that much out of this. It’s also worth noting that Master 5 really enjoyed it when I was reading to him, but wasn’t so keen by himself – the pictures by themselves couldn’t hold his attention as strongly.

    My main reservation about this book is that it can take a very very long time to read – there’s quite a lot in it, and additionally it can spark a lot of questions and digressions. This is a good thing, but for me at least it meant it’s not great as a bedtime story – it’s better read during the day when everyone is less tired and you have more time to dwell a bit.

    The book has a lot to recommend it. It’s very Australian, and full of ideas that will start your kids asking questions (good ones) and thinking about things. I really liked the underlying idea that it’s not a disaster if the plan has to change – this is a really good message for building resilience in kids, and just for everyday life. At the same time, the “surface” story of the hike is also interesting and kept the kids engaged.

    I’d strongly recommend this for kids aged 7-10; younger kids will enjoy it, but my eldest really seemed to enjoy taking it away, and poring over it, and coming back with more questions. This is a book with a lot to unpack, and I expect it to hold their interest for quite a while to come.

  10. Clancy sets out on a 6 day camping adventure with his Uncle Egg to the Grampians to find out where the Glenelg River originates.

    With frugal preparation they arrive at the campsite by train. From there on in they are on foot and carrying all they need in the back packs. Clancy and Uncle Egg trek through the bush & climb mountains and learn about the land from a local Jardadjali man and hiking tips from a rock climbing couple.

    Clancy faces challenges and needs to learn to be resourceful like finding shelter, making a fire, collecting rain for drinking water and collecting berries on his own. Clancy is curious about nature, and learns about birds, insects, plants, mosses and rocks along the way.

    I enjoyed the illustrations and how much detail each page had, you could read this book over and over again to take in all the visual information.

    Reading this book to my school aged children (6 & 8) over a few nights they were amused by the Uncle Egg character’s name, and they had lots of questions which was a platform for discussion about camping which incidentally we hope to do later this year to the Grampians!

    I love the educational and cultural awareness of this book and I am a big fan of encouraging children to experience nature. On page 66 Clancy sums it up impeccably how I feel children should be “I’m not going anywhere or trying to find anything. I’m just being here, just being me, no shoes, no socks, a boy with a beating heart hopping among the rocks…”

    A wonderful book thank you Trace Balla and Beauty and Lace for allowing me to review 

  11. Review by Jemima Day (11)

    It’s a really good book about nature and animals. It teaches kids to go outside, go on an adventure, and be daring. I like how it shows the animals, plants and their names so we can all learn a fact or two.
    The story was easy to understand and fun to follow along.

    The illustrations are amazing and so detailed! I can tell it would’ve taken a long time to do.

    There are some nice quotes in there too,

    “There’s some pretty good stuff when you’re not in woop woop too, though….. Like the shed, footy, and friends.”

    “And if I could chose any person on the whole planet to be with, I’d chose you, Uncle Egg.”

  12. Review by Miller (Age10)

    I think Rock Hopping is a fun story with many twists and turns along the way. It is about a father and daughter who go on an adventure to find the source of the Glenelg River.

    My favourite bit was when Clancy found a shelter and made a fire when she was stranded in a ditch.

    I gave this book a 7/10 because I liked the format but not always the story. The pictures were great. Thank you

  13. Reading Rock Hopping with my kids aged 5, 8 and 11 made us want to start packing and head to the Grampians immediately!!

    Beautiful way to introduce the varied flora and fauna of Australia to kids in a more indepth way. Loved the part where Clancy got lost and his little rock shelter nook! Loved the way he drew the beautiful wildflowers for his Mum, lovely idea for a permanent reminder without harming the flowers!

    My only negative was the colours were too dull for the kids aged 5 and 8. A lot of the illustrated wildlife and flora is much more brightly coloured in real life and would hold their attanetion better if depicted as close to nature as possible.

    The diary like format of the book was brilliant and little Miss 5 spent almost as long on the text of the story as looking at all the pictures on the page.

    Hope to follow them and rock hop among the Grampians during the next school holidays! Fantastic book overall and is already a firm bed time favourite!

  14. My 7 year old took to this book instantly. She has quite a long attention span and she read it over 2 nights.
    Rockhopping isn’t the type of book she’s read before and I was curious if she’d get into it, I was pleasantly surprised. I too got into this book and we both spent a lot of time after reading just looking through the front and back inside covers naming the animals and plants.

    Miss 7 said ‘I loved Rockhopping, Uncle Egg is really smart and my favourite part was when Clancy got lost. My favourite page is Page 7 with all the stuff they have to pack because I love packing for holidays’. I thought her wording and comprehension of the book was great!

    When I was younger my parents took me camping in Halls Gap and it brought back some nice memories of our fortnight exploring The Grampians and surrounding towns. This book has made me want to stop by on our next trip to Melbourne for some exploring with our kids.
    Miss 7 is taking this book into show her teacher and I have a feeling it will be a hit with her too.

  15. My 9y.o and I read “rockhopping” by Trace Balla, together over three evenings. She, actually we both were, totally engrossed by the adventures of the 2 characters Clancy and Uncle Egg! Especially Clancy’s growth and self discovery throughout the book. After finishing the book Miss 9 was on the internet researching “the Grampians”.
    Glad I got to read and review such a wonderful book!

  16. By Ave, age 9:

    Rockhopping is about a boy called Clancy & his Uncle Egg who go on a camp in the bush.

    They have a great time & enjoy exploring together.

    I liked this book because it has lots of exciting adventures, cool cartoon pictures and lots of Australian characters.

    I would tell other kids to read Rockhopping, it’s great!

  17. What a beautiful book, I personally loved this book and really enjoyed reading it to my son. My son on the other hand had trouble sitting listen to the story as it was such a long story so we broke it up into 4 parts. We loved all the Australia fanua and the fact the story was a comic style book. It’s was a very cute and fun book to read and I highly recommend adding it to your children’s collection.

  18. My 8 year old and 10 year old really enjoyed this book!
    They loved that it was set out like a comic, and that it is about exploring in Australia. We chatted for a long time about the pictures and different parts of the story, and it was great that our whole family went on this adventure together!
    I found the book great because the places, flora and fauna are all real and not made up like many children’s books are.
    This is a book that my kids have already gone back to on different occasions, and I think it will remain a favourite in our house!

  19. This book is wonderful. Written and illustrated in a similar fashion to a comic, it really showed everything. I love how it is such a learning experience and also a local story. It was a wonderful way to learn as they go through their adventure, meeting people, discovering Australian flora and fauna.

    My daughter instantly loved it, especially thinking it was especially funny Clancy’s uncle was Egg. We are now inspired to go camping so she can have a similar experience.

  20. By Erika, age 8
    I thought that the book was good and some bits were funny, Especially when uncle eggs bag rolled away. I read the book to my sister and she thought it was a good book. I loved the pictures they were fantastic. I learnt about lots of animals, insects and plants. I loved the book.I thought the book was well set out and was interesting. Thank you for letting me read Rockhopping 🙂

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