Little Brother


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About the Author

Allan Baillie was born in Scotland in 1943 and came to Victoria, Australia with his family when he was six. They moved to Emerald, then Geelong (he still barracks for the Cats), Drysdale, Portarlington and later Melbourne. Allan began writing stories for fun while still at school. He is now one of Australia's most successful writers for children. His novels, which include Little Brother (1986), The China Coin (1992), Saving Abbie (2000) and Treasure Hunters (2002), have won him acclaim, awards and international recognition. His books have found success in Japan, Sweden, Holland, Germany, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand and South Africa. His most recent books for Penguin include a collection of short stories, A Taste of Cockroach (2005) and Castles (2005), a superb picture book for young children, illustrated by Caroline Magerl. Allan's most recent novel, Krakatoa Lighthouse, won the 2010 NSW Premier's Literary Patricia Wrightson Award. Outpost is his forthcoming novel, and he is currently working on the next two after that. Allan spends most of his time with his wife Agnes in Avalon, north of Sydney, but they travel regularly to far-flung places, including Anak Krakatoa, the Son of Krakatoa, which they climbed during a quiet period.


Gr 5-8-- Brothers Mang and Vithy, having escaped the Khmer Rouge, are being pursued through the Cambodian jungle. When the younger boy sprains his ankle, Mang leads their recent captors away from him. A single shot rings out and he does not return. Vithy, about 11, now sets out to accomplish the brothers' original plan of escaping to the Thai border, hoping to be reunited with Mang. The story is set at the beginning of the Vietnamese invasion, so there is danger of being caught in the crossfire, but also room for kindness from strangers as the Vietnamese have liberated much of the countryside from the vise of the Khmer Rouge. There are also well-integrated vignettes of earlier, happier times as Vithy recalls his life with his parents and little sister, all since murdered. The highly believable plot leads the boy to his goal and a refugee hospital, where an Australian doctor befriends him and engineers his resettlement with her in Sydney. The novel is well written and realistically developed, Vithy being so nicely drawn in varying emotions that one suspects that he is based on a real person. No heavy-handed theme dominates the text, yet it conveys a chilling glimpse of what many Cambodian children have had to endure. A dozen or so line drawings of negligible quality add nothing to the text. This excellent tale of courage and survival lends real life flesh to textbook facts and will be welcomed in most collections. It should be mandatory reading for anyone working with Southeast Asian youth. --John Philbrook, San Francisco Public Library

PW found this tale of a Cambodian orphan's journey to the Thailand border ``haunting and provocative.'' Ages 8-12. (Apr.)

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