Today’s Retro Reading offering is, for me, a quintessential book of childhood. I first encountered it as a school-aged stone, through a teacher’s (inspired!) choice for a classroom read-aloud. I remembered it fondly and was very excited to dip back into it as a grown stone.
Finders Keepers by perennial Australian author Emily Rodda, (she of Deltora Quest and Rowan of Rin fame), follows the exploits of Patrick, a young lad who is contacted through a computer game and invited to take part in a mysterious game show and win fabulous prizes. After accepting, Patrick is pulled through “the Barrier” separating our world from…well…another very similar world…and is tasked with finding three objects that have slipped through the Barrier and been lost by their owners. Cue all the fun and suspense that goes along with any adventure in which a child is continually thwarted by perfectly ordinary problems – such as not having anyone to drive him to the shop where he suspects one of the objects may be found.
I am happy to report that re-reading this book produced everything I remembered and adored about it the first time round. Emily Rodda possesses a remarkable ability to draw the reader in to the world she has created, even when crafting everyday domestic conversations or describing the simple problems faced by her young protagonists. In Finders Keepers, she weaves suspense through the story beautifully and has crafted her characters – particularly Patrick and Estelle – in such a genuine way that one finds oneself glued to the page and cheering them along.
This story also features some riddles – a bit of a Rodda signature move – which are quite fun to solve and would appeal to its target audience. Finders Keepers, having won the Childrens Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award for Younger Readers in 1991, was followed up with The Timekeeper, and later made into a television series. You can see a bit of it at the link below. Incidentally, if you’re a fan of early 1990s fashion and culture in Australia, you’re in for a treat!
This book is a perfect choice for any kid aged 8 and above. Actually, seven-year-olds would probably get a kick out of it too. It really is one of those rare gems that comes along and sticks in your memory, and is well worth hunting out, particularly for readers outside Australia who may be discovering it for the first time!
As has been my wont recently, I have included all the different versions of cover art that I could lay paw on…my favourite is the first as it is the one I remember. The last one pictured (with backwards hat boy) is my least favourite…I think it makes the main character look like an individual lacking the capacity for independent thought….or any thought, really. Do not let this distract you, book Finders – I challenge you to seek out this book, even if you have to cross the Barrier to get to it!
Until next time,