Harry Kruize, Born to Lose
Publisher: Ford Street Publishing
Format: Paperback Demographic: Upper primary and above
RRP: $17.95 ISBN: 9781925272628
Reviewer: Tim Harris
Harry Kruize, Born to Lose is as much a collection of (and tribute to) Australiana as it is a contemporary Aussie kids’ story. The story, presented in journal form, contains a number of short stories adapted from Henry Lawson’s classic yarns, with a brace of Paul Collins’s own additions, wrapped up in a compelling frame narrative about the title character, Harry Kruize.
The Lawson stories selected for this book all prominently feature dogs, as do the two ‘new’ ones Collins includes. ‘The Dog That Never Was’ in particular feels right at home amongst these stories, with just the right mix of mystery, humour, and a firm historical setting so characteristic of Aussie bush yarns. The work’s greatest strength lies in its characterisation, which is as efficient as it is compelling. Particularly impressive is Collins’s ability to give each of the many dogs appearing in the story a distinct personality.
Much of the development of the human characters is done through voice, both in the narration and the dialogue. Which of the major characters is speaking at any given time is immediately recognisable from their voice alone, which is a great technical accomplishment and really helps to flesh out and distinguish each character. Collins’s creative use of font in particular adds to the characterisation of the main narrator and title character. Along with the informal, diary format, this also contributes to making the story an exceedingly easy read, as key words are picked out and emphasised in a manner appropriate to the speaker. While the work does contain some serious issues, the going never gets too heavy, thanks in part to Harry’s unique approach to life.
The denouement is, of course, masterful.
Harry Kruize, Born to Lose breathes new life into Lawson’s tales, and is a worthy addition to any collection of children’s books. I’d recommend it for upper-primary school children, particularly any who like dogs.