Bullseye Bella by James T Guthrie
A finalist in the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adult 2019.
Bella Kerr is a darts prodigy. When she finds out that her little brother’s special schooling is at risk due to a lack of money, she decides to help. Bella secretly enters a local dart competition at the local pub. Aged only 12, her entry doesn’t go down well with the old boys’ network of darts players. One competitor in particular will go to any length in order to stop Bella qualifying for the national competition.
Bullseye Bella is a humorous and action-packed story. Author James T Guthrie packs a lot into the easy read, without burdening younger readers with heavy lessons.
Bella is a strong, young female lead, with plenty of guts. It’s not all roses for her, and the story follow her anxiety and uncertainty to overcome the challenges she faces. As well as being young, she is passionate about a traditionally male-dominated sport. Darts features a lot of mathematics, so the character breaks a lot of stereotypes. Girls can play darts and do math.
Bella’s family also isn’t defined by stereotypes. Her younger brother Max, aka Blackbeard, is neurodiverse. His love for pirates is a fun and playful element, without overshadowing his Asperger’s. Added into the mix is the fact Bella’s parents are divorced. Her mother is a solo-mother who works hard. Bella’s father is largely absent from the story, although we do learn he has re-married. This dynamic doesn’t dominate the story, but does add to it. It is important that children of all different walks of life can see themselves reflected back in a story, and Bullseye Bella is a welcome addition to the diversity of our bookshelves.
For those that know nothing about the competitive nature of darts, Guthrie does include a simple 101 on the sport. This makes it easy to understand and follow the jargon littered throughout the book. The book culminates in the hysteria of a live darts tournament, and having watched just a few moments on the television. Guthrie portrays it well.
With simple, gentle lessons about expectations and staying true to yourself, Bullseye Bella is a lovely, easy read with a story that shines.
Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser
Scholastic, RRP $17.99