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Review from jadaykennedy.blogspot.com

Dated 11 February 2010

Black Baron
by Robyn Opie
ISBN: 978-1406322163
Price: 4.99
Format: Paperback
Genre/age group: Fiction for readers aged 9+

Brief synopsis: The story of a great escape by the king of the cockroach racing world and the desperate race against time to save him from extermination!

Black Baron, Jake’s champion racing cockroach, hasn’t lost a race and Jake is on top of the world. But then his “clean freak” mum decides to clean up his bedroom and discovers Black Baron in a shoebox under Jake’s bed. Mum is aghast – how could Jake keep such a filthy pest? Black Baron escapes from his shoebox home, but Jake's mum is not deterred; she calls the pest exterminator and a hilarious slapstick tale ensues.

Let me preface this review by stating that I detest any and all insects. When I learned that the Black Baron was a cockroach I stopped reading. As I continued to read, the story claimed my full attention. Jake loved this critter and feared for its life. I became a cockroach’s cheerleader and feared for its life, too.

Robyn Opie’s portrayal of Jake’s search for the racing roach consumes the reader and they cling to the hope the Black Baron will be safe. Boys will empathize with Jake’s concern over his beloved roach.

The length of the book and vocabulary in the story is well-suited to middle grade readers. The boy that regularly shuns reading will enjoy the tale of a boy and his racing roach. As the story unfolds and Jake’s roach is believed dead readers will heave a sigh of sadness. At every twist and turn the reader will be entertained and wrapped up in the story clear up to the end. I highly recommend this book.

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Review from Aussiereviews.com
Reviewed by Sally Murphy, September 08


Black Baron is on the run.


Turning around, Dad glared at me and held up his hand like a policeman stopping traffic. “I’m not sharing my house with a cockroach as if…as if…” He flung his hands in the air, turned around and stormed off.
Black Baron didn’t take up much room, I thought. Besides, no one was using the space under my bed. “He’s not hurting anyone,” I tried again.
“It isn’t natural,” Dad said. “People don’t keep cockroaches as pets.”


Jake’s cockroach, Black Baron, is on a winning streak. In Fact, he’s probably the best racing cockroach ever. But Jake knows that Black Baron wouldn’t be welcome in the house if Mum knew he was there. That’s why Black Baron is kept under the bed, which is a great place until Mum tidies Jake’s bedroom and not only discovers the cockroach but also inadvertently releases it. When Dad calls in the exterminator, Jake thinks he’ll never see Black Baron again.

Black Baron
is one title in the new Lightning Strikes series from Walker Books, a series aimed at 9 to 14 year old readers, and likely to engage reluctant readers with its contemporary look and non-threatening length.

Black Baron
is humorous, with chaos ensuing as Jake searches for his cockroach and tries to prevent it being exterminated, but also touches on serious issues such as family conflict and financial stress. The friendship Jake shares with his mates is also a very positive element of this story.

A great read for upper primary aged readers.

Black Baron
by Robyn Opie
Walker Books 2008

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Review from Otago Daily Times, New Zealand
6 September 2008

Latest offerings from series books impress

Black Baron by Robyn Opie (Walker Books, pbk, $15) is a fast-paced, short novel for junior readers who are just discovering chapter books.

The Baron is the best racing cockroach Jake has had, until his mum discovers it and targets it for extermination.

There are a couple of narrow escapes before the bug finds a sort of cockroach heaven. Good fun.

- Raymond Huber is a Dunedin teacher.

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