The Underdogs of Upson Downs

Knopf. Mar. 2024. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593703632.
Gr 3-7–Annie Shearer’s family lives on a sheep farm in Upson Downs, a small town in the Australian countryside. Annie is great at fixing things but is troubled by a problem apparently beyond her skills. It hasn’t rained in Upson Downs in so very long, and the only source of water has been siphoned off by a greedy neighbor. Businesses are closing, and townspeople are moving away. To help bring rain, Annie builds a rainmaker machine. But rain still doesn’t come to the town. At a local fair, Annie has a new plan to get money for her family—she enters her dog, Runt, in an agility contest. Runt is fast, but Runt trusts only Annie and freezes when other people are around. Amazingly, Runt wins the agility contest at the fair and goes on to win at a countrywide contest as well. This win propels Annie and Runt to an international championship in faraway London. Annie is keen to go as she figures the prize money will help her family keep the farm. A series of circumstances causes Runt to lose the final competition, but all is not lost as rain finally comes to Upson Downs. Previously published in Australia as Runt, this novel was named the Book of the Year at the 2023 Australian Book Industry Awards. Giving the characters names like Earl Robert-Barren and Basil Peppercorn, Silvey crafts lyrical prose and leaves hidden gems for readers young and old. This novel will keep middle grade readers wishing for more stories about Runt and Annie.
VERDICT A delightful novel about a girl and her dog that will capture the imaginations of readers.

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