Robert Newton works as a full-time firefighter with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. His first novel, My Name is Will Thompson, was published in 2001. Since then he has written six other novels for young people, including Runner, The Black Dog Gang and When We Were Two, which won the 2012 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction. He lives in Melbourne with his wife and three daughters.
Gr 5-8-Charlie Feehan, 16, stuffs the holes in his boots with newspaper and runs through the streets of Melbourne, in 1919, to escape the cold and sadness in his mother's tiny flat since his father died. When the city's most notorious gangster, Squizzy Taylor, offers the teen a paying job as a runner, he secretly quits school and takes to the streets, delivering illegal liquor and collecting money for his boss. Vowing to surprise his mother with money to ease her burden, Charlie ignores obvious dangers. Teamed up with "Nostrils," he cowardly runs away from a gang one night, leaving the boy behind to be brutally beaten. Shaken, Charlie quits the illegal running and listens to his neighbor Mr. Redmond, who offers to train him to run for a purse in the Bellarat footraces. Betting his ill-gotten gains on himself, Charlie wins and uses the money to help Nostrils, who is now on crutches. Rich dialogue in Australian dialect creates a colorful picture of the historical urban setting, suspenseful plot, and warm characterizations. Minor figures are as well developed as the protagonist, and readers will enjoy Nostrils and his football-obsessed father, Charlie's budding romance with the baker's daughter, and the flamboyant Squizzy and his motherly girlfriend. Add this one to adventure collections or bibliographies about Prohibition.-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Australian author Newton's touching coming-of-age story starring 16-year-old Charlie Feehan is set in 1919 Melbourne. After his father's death, Charlie still wears knickerbockers at school, "but once the lessons were over, I returned home and stepped into the long pants of adulthood." Responsible for caring for his impoverished family, Charlie runs several miles nightly, in an effort to cast off the inescapable cold at home ("To be poor was to be cold. The two were the same"). Charlie's speed attracts the attention of local crime boss Squizzy Taylor who offers him a job as a runner, delivering goods and collecting payments. Though Charlie's mother forbids him from accepting the position, he skips school to take the job. However, he eventually discovers that Squizzy's world is far too dangerous. When Charlie's friend and fellow runner, Norman "Nostrils" Heath, is crippled by a gang attack, Charlie, paralyzed by fear, is unable to come to his friend's defense. Charlie's neighbor, Mr. Redman, offers to train him for the big Bellarat Mile Race, and Charlie sees this as his best opportunity for redemption. The youth's growing friendship with Nostrils is especially tender, as is a subplot centering on a nascent romantic interest. Newton's writing teems with bright, engaging dialogue, a compelling historical setting and fully developed characters; this outing should easily win him U.S. fans. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.