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Leo and Ralph

By Peter Carnavas

Reviewed by Mia Macrossan

Peter’s first book, Jessica’s Box, was released in 2008, while he was working as a primary school teacher. Many picture books followed, including Last Tree in the CityThe Children Who Loved Books and Blue Whale Blues. After focusing on picture books for nearly a decade, Peter released his first novel, The Elephant, in 2017, followed by My Brother Ben, a novel about brothers, birds and boats,  in 2021.
Peter’s novels are characterised by instantly relatable people. He shows everyday families grappling with serious situations in a sensitive and understanding narrative that grips the reader. Leo and Ralph is a story about friendship, particularly what it means to have a friend, and what happens if you don’t.
Leo and Ralph have been best friends ever since prep. Ralph is a special friend and being with him means that Leo doesn’t mind being ignored at school. Together they invent games, explore the heavens and enjoy private jokes. When Mum gets a new job the whole family makes the move from the city to a small country town and Leo has to say goodbye to Ralph. It’s not easy starting afresh in a new town and Leo misses his friend. There is another boy at the school who is also a bit of a loner and gradually Gus and Leo start building a new friendship that is deeply satisfying for both of them.
 Peter has created a quirky charming imaginary friend in Ralph that every reader will wish is real. He carefully builds up a picture of a lonely gifted boy who takes refuge in his imagination. Each short chapter expands our understanding of what is going on with Leo and his family. The writing is deceptively simple, each scene a masterpiece of understatement and restraint, but suffused  with warmth and humour.
Peter has deservedly won many awards for his previous novels and Leo and Ralph with its wide appeal to middle grade readers, should garner him some more.
Teacher’s Notes
University of Queensland Press 2024
Peter Carnavas
1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680

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