“Blend of Australian fable and southern culture.”—Sam R. Staley review of “DOWN UNDER”

Down Under: Kussins is the kind of book that will delight early and middle-grade readers and leave parents befuddled, in a good way. The book is the second volume published by the quirky and fun Family Tree Novels by award winning children’s book illustrator M.W. Adams, and follows the very normally abnormal Qweepie family. (No, the family name is not misspelled.)

Driew is the youngest boy in the Qweepie family, and he is constantly tormented by his older “bothers” and “sinisters.” Now that his older sister Killiope is off to boot camp following her high school graduation, older brother Pester has taken up the mantle of chief bully. He combines with other kids in the town of Dawson Springs, Kentucky (a real place) to make Driew’s life miserable.

But the young lad is resilient, and Drew soon finds himself in the company of his Australian friend Guilia and two other boys—Cain and Able—working on the neighbor’s farm. The respite is enough to keep him relatively safe, at least safe enough to develop friendships with other children nearby. But tension and danger escalate as Driew finds his compassion putting himself in vulnerable situations.

As Driew faces each incident and disappointment, he becomes aware of the circuitous and unpredictable turns of life and the mosaic that makes up human nature. What seems clear in one moment is revealed as complicated and knotty in the next. His humility grows, and the reader grows with him. The arrival of a supposedly extinct species of Australian dog seems to arrive just in time to resuscitate his purpose in life.

The Family Tree stories are a rich blend of Australian fable and mythology with the upside of southern culture. Driew’s story is told in “moments,” those events along a “songline” that influence his understanding of life and reveals his path as his life plays out during “dreamtime.” He has already mastered the magical art of sing-song, an ability to summon objects as well as conjure effects such as fire for a torch at critical times.

The quirkiness of the novel is not a gimmick. The odd spellings, unusual references to concepts and myth, and juxtaposition of cultural commentary and Australian myth are intentional. The result is an unusually layered story that engages readers while promoting solid values and understanding of the human condition.

Mark Wayne Adams skill as a storyteller shows through with each turn of the page. He knows his audience, and his deep experience as a writer for young readers allows him to juxtapose wildly divergent storylines in ways that strengthen the tale rather than diffuse its power and focus. He includes enough fantasy and magic to transport young and old readers into new dimensions, to the point the forested acreage of the Qweepie family farm truly seems to be transformed from the Back 40 to the Outback.

Targeted toward a middle-grade audience, Down Under: Kussins is appropriate for any reader who has advanced to chapter books. Adults will likely stumble over of the strange spellings and unfamiliar references, but children will delight in the novelty, magic and fantasy of the story and characters. Mark Wayne Adams fresh approach to the series may well end up igniting an interest in the land Down Under for an entirely new generation.

Sam R. Staley, author of The Pirate of Panther Bay

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Summer Reading List: “DOWN UNDER: Kussins”

The Family Tree Novel series’ steady, enduring story is like a tree growing against nature’s will toward the sky. Driew Qweepie’s perennial story buds, blossoms, grows, and falls from the twisted branches of the Qweepie family tree. The story’s sing-song rhythm creates a songline for readers to follow, scanning a century all told.

The book series begins with a boy starting walkabout, a historical rite of passage into manhood. The moments throughout walkabout are viewed by a magic man chasing along an untimely move from Dawson City, Victoria, Australia’s Outback, to Dawson Springs in rural western Kentucky. This journey becomes a boy’s tracing of his bloodline, discovery of country, and possible death.

DOWN UNDER: Kussins is part of our Summer Reading List for Students! Purchase your own or check the book out at the local library. If it’s not available at the library, request it be added.

DOWN UNDER: Kussins is written by Mark Wayne Adams. This is one of books in his award-winning Family Tree Novel series of chapter books:  STATION: OutlawsOZ: InlawsNO WORRIES: Momus & MamaaysOUTBACK: Bothers & SinistersDOWN UNDER: KussinsG’DAY: AintsMATES: Uncools, and WALKABOUT: Mates.

“A well-crafted work that reads like poetry.” —Ruffina Oserio, Readers’ Favorite

down-under-kussins-3d-book-cover-9781596160385-www-mwa-company-72dpiReviewed By Ruffina Oserio for Readers’ Favorite

DOWN UNDER: Kussins by M.W. Adams is a family tree novel for young readers, a well-crafted work that reads like poetry, featuring very good and believable characters and a plot that will undoubtedly have readers turning the pages. The main character, Driew, is not an ordinary kid, and of course his parents think it is useless leaving him with a cellphone. From the very first page, readers are pulled into the world of the protagonist, a world that rhymes with a lot of tension and activities and danger. Very early in the story, the reader understands that Driew already has a huge problem dealing with his one sibling: “I don’t want to live another tortuous year as Pester’s little brother. Can’t Pester resolve his issues to become a loving brother?” The reader is pulled into the dynamics of family life and conflicts, but the adventure of Driew is what will take their breath away. Follow him down the hazardous path under.

The writing is like nothing I have read before, an original voice and a turn of phrase that has its unique signature. M.W. Adams has a bubbling imagination that comes out powerfully in the morphology of his writing, the cast of characters, and the compelling plot. The plot is fast-paced with a lot of drama and powerful scenes to pull the reader in. I read the entire story within twenty-four hours and enjoyed the plot lines, the characters, and the themes that center on the family. Down Under: Kussins is fun and entertaining.

“‘Down Under: Kussins is as exciting as it is entertaining, a real thrill ride.”—Divine Zape, Readers’ Favorite

Reviewed By Divine Zape for Readers’ Favorite

DOWN UNDER: Kussins by Mark Wayne Adams is a glorious read, tantalizing and absorbing, a book for young readers that will equally appeal to adult ones. The book reveals a lot of creativity and symbolism on the part of the author, starting with a stream of consciousness built about bullying Driew, one of the lead characters, and immediately draws readers into a beautiful adventure that centers on family values, and coming-of-age challenges.

Mark Wayne Adams has a unique style of writing and it is interesting to see how creative he gets with diction. The characters are very interesting and mature readers will be reminded of the young kids they once were, of a beautiful world they once inhabited, and dreams they once had. The characters are relatable, real, and watching them deal with challenges and conflict is a huge entertainment. The plot is fast-paced, imagined with a lot of surprises for readers. There is music in the writing, like the singing-things, a kind of music that moves with the plot and animates the action throughout the whole novel.

Besides the musical quality in the writing, readers are met with symbolism, and beautiful dialogues that help to enhance plot and characterization. This is a hilarious ride for young readers and the prose is certainly going to ring through their ears like music. They will love characters as compelling as Driew as they follow them through the adventure. DOWN UNDER: Kussins is as exciting as it is entertaining, a real thrill ride.