Title: My Brother Ben

Author: Peter Carnavas

Publisher: University of Queensland Press – UQP

Publication date: September 28, 2021

Themes: Trust, hope, acceptance, brothers, family, boats, birds,

Additional notable information: Teachers’ Notes can be downloaded from the UQP website

My Brother Ben by Peter Carnavas is a glorious book to dive into, it will pull at your heartstrings, make you cheer out loud and it will warm your heart. It is a story about hope, trust, acceptance as well as brothers and birds. A story where the reader feels the highs, lows, frustrations, challenges and love that come with the unbreakable bond between two brothers. Ben is the older brother, he is brave, bold, adventurous, carefree and very much looked up to and adored by his younger brother, Luke. Luke is cautious, timid, lacks confidence and has an impressive talent for drawing birds and identifying them by listening to their songs.

Ben and Luke are at a time of change in their lives as their Dad has suddenly left their family home and Ben is about to start high school. With this comes a new friendship for Ben in the form of Frankie, a new girl to the area. These unchartered waters impact their relationship. Their Mum and her younger sister, Gem, help them navigate the waves of change. Aunty Gem is particularly close to Luke as they share a passion for birdwatching. Luke finds great comfort in birdwatching; it is an escape for him, a time where he can be present in the moment and not let his mind wander to ruminate about the what if questions.

Ben and Luke live on the banks of Cabbage Tree Creek in Queensland. Peter Carnavas brings the creek to life with his evocative descriptions and the way he personifies the creek which adds to the rich descriptions. It is here, on Cabbage Tree Creek, where the boys are free to explore, play, enjoy adventures and dream during their summer school holidays. They share a dream about owning a boat so that they can explore the creek further and fish in ‘The Pocket’, set up camp, experience adventures and sleep under the twinkling stars.

The boys learn about a competition where entrants are required to make something that celebrates Cabbage Tree Creek and the prize is a fishing canoe and the opportunity to name it. This just might see their dream of owning a boat come true. After much deliberation, the boys decide to create a book titled, The Birds of Cabbage Tree Creek which is illustrated by Luke. The competition is fierce and the boys are determined to win. Will their entry win them the canoe?

Before reading this story, birds were not something that I spent much time thinking about or appreciating as much as I could. However, I armed myself with my very first bird guide book while reading this book as the descriptions fascinated me and learning about the birds’ behaviours intrigued me. The use of similes and metaphors when talking about the birds is so poetic, it conjured up such vivid and memorable images which piqued my interest in all of the birds mentioned. I had to know more (and see if I could work out my soul bird just as the characters in the book did). 

This story, full of heart, had us absolutely spell bound with unexpected twists we could have never imagined, yet could not have been more perfect. It is such an uplifting story about the beauty and rawness of sibling relationships, the freedom of childhood as well as the beauty and joy that comes from spending time making memories while enjoying the natural environment.

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