Thursday, April 21, 2016

Run, Pip, run by JC Jones

Run, Pip, run is a book on the CBCA Notable list for 2016.  It has been in our school library for a while but until last night I had not read it.  I thought I would just dip in and read a chapter or two.  A couple of hours later I lifted my head having read the whole book in one sitting.  This is always a good sign - a story so well paced you just become totally absorbed.

Pip lives with Sully. She is named by Sully after he finds an apple crate containing a baby on the door step of Number 3 Greene Lane, Spring Hill.  At the beginning of the story, which is Pip's tenth birthday,  Sully has a stroke so we never hear from him directly except through some very slurred speech in the hospital and yet a real strength of the story telling by JC Jones is the way she gives us little glimpses into the past life and character of this old man.  He smokes - Pip disapproves.  He drinks too much - Pip tries to reduce this by helping him with his choices at the track. He is quite poor but survives on money from gambling at the races .  He uses words like skinny squawker, call a spade a blasted shovel, grousing about bludgers and drongos.  He deeply loved his wife Em and in happier times Archibald Sullivan known as Sully and Em had taken in foster kids in the past.  This is why Pip is left on their doorstep.  It is also clear that he loves Pip.

When Sully is admitted to hospital, Pip is left to fend for herself.  She is in fear of 'the welfare people' and runs away from the hospital giving the police officer the slip.  I wonder why do many children's books demonize foster carers and welfare people. Eventually the authorities do catch up with her and she is taken in to care late at night.  The section in this book where we meet the foster mum is quite harrowing.

"A bulky woman with greying frizzy hair came towards them, drying her hands on a towel ... she could see the flickering TV and hear Sandie talking on the phone. 'Welfare just dropped off that kid from the news ... it's only for a day or two, worse luck ... Could do with the cash."

There are brilliant moments of real tension in this story.  Early on Pip goes into a fast food place. As she goes to leave she sees some teenagers and she knows this will mean trouble.  I actually gasped out loud when these kids took her precious pack but Pip has something clever up her sleeve.  Actually Pip is a very smart kid.  She excels at school and seems wise beyond her years but there is one thing she does not really know about.  The hospital explains Sully will need to go into rehab.  Pip assumes this will cost a huge amount of money.  How can she raise such a large amount?  She is too young to be given a paid job but she does know how to pick winners at the track.

I should give a little warning.  If you are thinking of reading this book to a class make sure you read it yourself first.  There is a disturbing scene early on in the story where a strange man tries to pick Pip up in his car.  Teachers need to be prepared to re-visit the issues surround stranger danger.  I think this makes this book more suitable for students in Grade 5 and older.

Run, Pip, run is up against two books which I have previously blogged.  Sister Heart (which I actually hope will win this category) and Molly and Pim and the millions of stars.

Run, Pip, run reminded me of a long out of print title Time to go by Jenny Pausacker. You might also enjoy Don't Breathe a word by Marianne Musgrove, Pictures of Hollis Woods and Looking for X by Deborah Ellis.

I have not yet read all of the Younger Readers Notables but, based on the books I have read, I do hope Run, Pip, Run makes the short list.  The quote below links to a review you might like to read.

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