Sunday 17 November 2013

Midnite: The Story of a Wild Colonial Boy by Randolph Stow

I remember our school librarian reading Midnite to us in 5th or 6th class. I remember how the class laughed out loud over and over again. I remember how this was became of the few books that had a waiting list full of boys names. I also remember sitting there with everyone laughing around me and not really understanding why!

That is, I understood on an intellectual level why the book was funny - a dopey 17 year orphan in WA becomes a bushranger with the help of his talking cat, horse, cockatoo & cow. It was a non-stop comedy of errors and silliness.

As an adult I now understand exactly why this book didn't appeal to me back then - the talking animals!
I seriously disliked talking animal stories, especially if the talking animals talked to humans.

I still struggle with animals talking to humans in books. It's fine for animals to talk to each other (i.e. Watership Down) or for the author to let us into the thoughts and feelings of the animal (i.e. Black Beauty & My Friend Flicka). I'm also okay with human/animal relationships where there is a form of non-verbal communication and understanding (i.e. Lassie, Skippy and Flicker).

I've come to love stories like Winnie the Pooh thanks to the language and humour.

But I still couldn't read The Knife of Never Letting Go. As soon as the dog started talking, I was out of there!

And, sadly, the same thing has happened during my reread of Midnite.

I had forgotten the story completely, except that it was funny and about a bumbling bushranger.

That unusual sound you heard two nights ago was me groaning out loud when at the bottom of pg 2, Khat, the Siamese cat, started talking to young Midnite!

Then it all came flooding back. The memories of sitting in class and pretending to laugh when everyone else laughed & being grateful for the first time ever about the slimness of a book!

Midnite can be seen as a precursor to the Andy Griffiths school of humour. Perfect for the 10+ reader who likes lots of silliness and outrageous events.
It won the 'highly commended' CBCA award the year I was born - 1968. It was Randolph Stow's (1935 - 2010) one & only children's book.

Don't let my review put you off - there's a lot about this book that is endearing and funny; it's just not for me.


  1. That brings back memories! I am helpless in the face of a talking cat - I don't know why I find it so easy to think that's normal! ;-) I hadn't thought about this book for years, but I am going to find a copy for my oldest niece (10) now.

    1. I somehow feel at fault for not liking talking animal stories!
      I've missed so many well-loved classics like Alice in Wonderland and Wind in the Willows because the talking animals put me off.
      It must be a genetic flaw or an imagination block :-)


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