Pobby and Dingan

Pobby and Dingan, by Ben Rice, is a unique young adult novel. It is set in an Australian opal mining town where ratting (stealing opals from another person’s claim) is as bad as murder.

The point of view character, Ashmol, has a lonely, sensitive sister named Kellyanne. She treats her imaginary friends, Pobby and Dingan, with such realism that even the shopkeepers in this rough settlement ask after them. Father and son make fun of her invisible companions.

The trick Rice manages is to have these imaginary beings affect the lives of real characters. They get Ashmol's father in grave trouble. They force Ashmol to reexamine faith: Is Kellyanne’s belief in Pobby and Dingan any crazier than the opal madness that pervades the town?

In a book filled with touching moments, the topper for me is when Ashmol sneaks into the dangerous mine at night to look for Kellyanne's missing 'friends.' It is so important to his ailing sister that, to save her, that he must do the deed in earnest.

This one is ideal for middle grade readers who aren't afraid to shed a tear. Poetic and short (94 pages) I could read this novel just for Ahmol's Australian accented 'voice' alone.