“I was captivated by the mood and magic that pervades.” —Jack Mangus, Readers’ Favorite

OUTBACK 3D-book-72DPI-RGBReviewed By Jack Mangus for Readers’ Favorite

Outback: Bothers and Sinisters is a young adult coming of age novel written by Mark Wayne Adams. After unsuccessfully listing their inherited property for sale for ten years now, the Qweepie family has reluctantly moved back to Marq Qweepie’s family farm in Dawson Springs, Kentucky. It’s a big change from the suburban sprawl of sunny Florida for Driew and his ‘bothers and sinisters.’ Driew is the baby in the family, and he’s smaller than the average 11-year-old and darker than the rest of his siblings. He’s been the brunt of their practical jokes and pranks for years now, so being hung up as the farm’s scarecrow, and left there hanging as his siblings go back home, is nothing new for him. Something special happens, however, during this unpleasant and humiliating experience. He’s rescued by a gangling and oddly spoken girl named Gulia. Her relatives are Australian, and she tells him how she and her mom go back there to visit her grandparents several times a year. Together, Gulia and Driew explore their own personal outback there in the Kentucky wilderness; a place where Driew is safe from the teasing and pranks of his siblings, and where he can feel a little bit of magic in the air.

Mark Wayne Adams’ young adult coming of age novel, Outback: Bothers and Sinisters, is a book to be read slowly and savored. I was captivated by the mood and magic that pervades this most unusual coming of age story and filled with no little regret when I finally came to the last page. Driew is one of the most unforgettable characters I’ve come across in some years and being present as he comes of age and finds out where he belongs was a rare privilege indeed. I loved experiencing Kentucky’s seasonal changes through his eyes, and especially enjoyed the detailed descriptions of how he makes the deer stand into his own place. While this book is geared towards the young adult audience, preteens and young-at-heart adults will most likely find themselves as enchanted by Driew, his parents and Gulia as I was. Outback: Bothers and Sinisters is most highly recommended.

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Student Questions: “Who is Russell?”

Who is Russell?

Russell is the reason I lived in an imaginary dog house from 2008 until 2009. During Spring of 2008, I worked full-time from home—all alone. My only companionship was Blu, our 12 year old dalmatian. Her time was consumed with finding lizards.

So, I began my search for the right family dog. My kids were six and eight. The dog needed to be full of energy, tough, and smart enough to survive the Adams Family. My preparation was watching national dog shows and Caesar Milan: The Dog Whisperer. I  read various dog books on breed facts. Finally, I chose the Jack Russell breed—without any input from my family.

I didn’t mention adopting the puppy to my wife, Angela. “No!” had become her unconscious answer to my unending puppy talk. So, I did what I always did when Angela told me no. I did it anyway!

Rusty's Baby PhotoSurfing the internet, I discovered a puppy photo that was too cute! A face I knew our family would love his entire life. I drove seventy miles to Ocala, Florida just to meet this little guy. FYI, most people do not meet a puppy without coming home with him. That happened to me.

On the way home, heavy traffic and lack of planning meant I had to bring the puppy with me to the kids’ school. No time for a memorable family puppy surprise with videos and pictures. Within five minutes his given name, Rusty, creatively became Russell—”for .Jack Russell, Dad.”

That night the kids and I met Angela at the school’s Family Reading Night. The kids were sworn to secrecy about Russell because mommy didn’t know. That lasted about fifteen seconds. The kids told a neighborhood friend. The friend told her parents. Then, the parents asked Angela about her new puppy. Angela’s response, “What puppy?” She knew. I knew. The entire school knew.

On the way home, Angela constructed an imaginary dog house. Not for the puppy, but for me. I mentally packed my belongings. Thankfully, Russell’s charm won her heart too. Lies, deception, and a poorly executed meeting didn’t stop our family from adopting little Russell.

He was Daddy’s Good Boy and Bad Bad Boy from day one. The Bad Bad Boy cried at night, peed on the floor, and chewed a corner of our new ottoman. (The kids and I’ve kept that secret until now.) The Daddy’s Good Boy won hearts with his intelligence, endurance, and loyalty. Life in the Adams household wasn’t life without Russell.

Daddy's Good BoyRussell is still a great companion. He rides four-wheelers in Kentucky, swims in our Florida pool, and rests at my feet while I watercolor. He and I know each other so well. He’s protected me from the occasional backyard snake, entertained me with squirrel surveillance, and has become a true character in life and books. Russell appears in many of my illustrated picture books. He can be found in:  Parts of Speech Parade, King for a Day, Treasure Island, Franny’s Rescue, and a soon to be a Russell Toy Pattern. You may discover him in other locations like school visits, at events, and in a Best Sketchbook.

As an author, illustrator, and publisher, his adoption has given me inspiration from under foot. After eight years, my answer to Who is Russell? He’s family!