More than 160 years ago, James Mackenzie and his black and white collie, Friday, steal a thousand sheep while two shepherds talk on a starlit night.
Friday secretly herds the stolen sheep through rugged, unmapped mountain passes. They get a fright when a monstrous shape comes towards them, but it’s just their bullock, which has broken free and come to join them.
Mackenzie is caught and stands trial; dog and master are reunited in the courtroom, and when Mackenzie is sentenced to jail, Friday is sent to the stolen sheep owner’s farm.
Mackenzie shouts that Friday won’t work for anyone else but him, and he’s right, but the family is kind and allows the dog to see out his days relaxing in the sun. Meanwhile, Mackenzie escapes and is caught several times, but the two never meet up again.
Friday The Rebel Dog is a creative nonfiction story, bringing history alive with a dramatic imagined account of the New Zealand tale.
Author Susan Brocker uses great writing techniques within the story, introducing children to alliteration, similes and active verbs.
Packed full with action, she hooks the reader in from the very beginning.
Illustrator Raymond McGrath uses bold colour in his traditional drawing and digital colouring techniques. The unnatural colours lend a nod to Fauvist.
McGrath manages to add plenty of atmosphere and emotion into the illustrations - the picture of Friday with pāraerae on her feet had our little readers in stitches. He captures the confused dog's look perfectly, wondering what on earth is attached to her feet.
The splendour of the New Zealand landscape is also captured in all its glory. There's a gorgeous double spread of the duo leaving at dawn, beneath snow capped mountains that is simply spectacular.
The pair have collaborated before - bringing Bess to War Horse's story to life.
Animal stories are always a hit with children, and it's great that there are more and more New Zealand tales being told.
Set in the Mackenzie Country the book includes useful history notes and a photograph of the statue of Mackenzie that stands today in Fairlie.
Friday The Rebel Dog is a wonderful real-life New Zealand story that will both educate and entertain the younger generation.
Reviewed by: Rebekah Lyell
Scholastic, RRP $18.99