Author: Trace Balla
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.
Rockhopping is book #19 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2016;