A review of Pirate: The Barking Kookabura by Adrian Plitzco

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Pirate: The Barking Kookabura
By Adrian Plitzco
Dramatized narration by Annie Phelan, Eva Spiesberger, Jenny Jarman, David Tredinnick, Drew Tingwell and Francis Greenslade.Music by Patrick Wauthier. Illustrations by Adrian Plitzco.
2 CDs, 2 hours 24 minutes. ISBN 978-0-646-54287-4, AUD 24.95

Pirate is a cute baby Kookaburra who appears one day amidst the dogs and a cat on the little farm. Pirate is full of youthful bluster, but the animals immediately take to him, and decide to help him find out where he comes from and where his parents are. This is a lovely and powerful story about care, kindness, camaraderie, and finding oneself. In particular, the maternal relationship between the large old Doberman Stelze and Pirate is heartwarming, and will have children wiping their eyes before laughing outloud at the silly antics as Pirate teaches the old dogs a bunch of new tricks.

The hunt for Pirate’s origins leads to some very funny situations, and everyone has a good time throughout. Pilco’s writing is descriptive and powerful, conveying the wonderful characters of Buddha the cynical and smart cat (naturally), Stelze, the loving Doberman, Ajax and Hoover, the playful dogs, and of course the cute, mischievous and high energy Pirate. The Australian bush is vividly described as the team goes on their little quest, taking the reader through swimming holes, caves and Eucalyptus forests. Children will love little Pirate best of all, conjuring up the little barking bird in their imaginations – which makes a nice change from the video screens and televisions that tend to take over the modern household. The audio is particularly good for long car trips – I listened in and out of my daily journey to work, and didn’t even mind the ubiquitous roadwork, as it gave me more time for the delicious story. There’s quite a bit of suspense when Stelze risks her own life to save Pirate, and then Pirate has to save Stelze.

Listening to audio books is such an innate pleasure, and those who tend to do their reading with a printed book might be surprised at how enjoyable the process is. You can close your eyes (not while driving), and imagine the scenes in your head. The cast is the same as Plitzco’s previous audio Lancelot: The one-armed Kangaroo, and all of them do a terrific job bringing the characters to life. Although I’m afraid I’ll always think of her as Meryl Sheep, Anne Phelan does a particularly powerful job of narrating the story, and her calm, warm voice works perfectly with the boisterous exuberance of Eva Spiesberger, Jenny Jarman, David Tredinnick, Drew Tingwell and Francis Greenslade. The CD is punctuated by a bright soundtrack by Patrick Wauthier that keeps the mood light and helps distinguish different scenes. Plitzco’s own artwork graces the cover, and makes this an attractive gift for any child (up to about age 10) who wants a wonderful, evocative story or to listen to on a lengthy car journey (even my 13 year old was engrossed).

A free copy of the story can be downloaded at Smashwords.

About the reviewer: Magdalena Ball is the author of the poetry book Repulsion Thrust, the novel Sleep Before Evening, a nonfiction book, The Art of Assessment.