Book Review: On Track by Kathryn Apel

I have been waiting and waiting for this book to be released! It was still in the editing process while I was working in marketing this year, so I didn’t get to work on it, but I got to read the final manuscript and OH MY GOODNESS.

This one was simply amazing! I’m not a crier but I cried for joy over this happy ending.

Here’s a quick peek inside the book and how/why Kat Apel wrote this uplifting story.

On Track by Kathryn Apel: A heart-warming children’s book about sports, sibling rivalry and the courage to be yourself.

My brother is good at

He always does things

I try,
but I’m not good at

In this children’s novel, Toby has a body that fumbles and stumbles and isn’t good at doing things like writing or sports. No matter how hard he tries, he’s not really good at anything … except running away from his big brother, Shaun.

After Toby is diagnosed with a muscular condition, he starts sessions with Shaun’s athletics trainer, Coach Lawrie, who teaches Toby techniques to fire up his sensory system and program his muscle memory.

But Sports Day is coming up, when Shaun is planning to break a new record in discus. Shaun is frustrated because even when he does better than everyone else, nobody notices. They only pay attention to Toby’s ‘problems’.

I have friends and family with ‘different abilities’ (autism, epilepsy, etc.) so I really resonated with the emotional struggles that Toby, the young main character, goes through as he tries to figure out ways to deal with school and sports in spite of his challenges. Kat Apel has put herself inside a kid’s head to express how it feels to know you’re different and how ecstatic it feels to find answers about why you’re different and finding help to achieve your potential.

The emotional tone is spot-on, and so, so moving. When the whole family finally gathers together to support Toby and Shaun together, your heart will soar.

So I’ll cheer him on,
even though sometimes
he makes me
spin out
he’s still my brother.

The plot is moving because it involves the universal struggle of any child or adult. Kat knows one of the hardest things to accept in life is how to be comfortable in our own skin. “So often, we look at others and judge ourselves harshly,” she says, “not realising that on the inside, they’re often as uncertain as we are.”

This was the first verse novel Kat started writing (her first one to be published, Bully on the Bus, was written while she was struggling to capture the themes in On Track) and it’s the one she’s stayed most passionate about. This book is the longest she’s ever written, but she has definitely kept the heart clean and clear.

If you’ve never read a verse novel (a novel written in poems, which is more than just a collection of poems), you should start here. The story pulls you through the poetry quickly, on and on.

And I’ve never been a huge poetry fan, so you know I’m not just saying that.

I wish the book had been given a different cover jacket – something that more clearly showed a boy running, or the two very different brothers facing off against each other. And I’m quite picky when it comes to covers. But even I couldn’t judge this book by its cover – the story just took over.

Kat wrote On Track for children like Toby and Shaun, who just want others to understand their perspectives and accept them for who they are. She said, “Kids aren’t all the same. They learn in different ways. They process things differently. Effort and ability can’t be measured the same way for all kids. Perhaps the only thing that is the same is that all kids have hearts and hurts.”

Kat based the character and philosophy of Coach Lawrie on a teacher she remembers from an athletics group her boys were involved in. That teacher “gave so much of her time, energy and passion to work with kids and encourage them to do their best and be their best on the sporting field.”

I just think of crossing the finish line.

Coach believes in me.

And I believe in Coach.

With enough heart for a whole Little Athletics team, On Track will have you cheering until the very end.

I just
to be
The best ‘me’
I can

Kathryn Apel author photo. Image source: University of Queensland Press

Image source: University of Queensland Press

On Track is Kat’s fourth book and second verse novel. Kat is a born-and-bred farm girl who’s scared of cows but lives on a Queensland grazing property with lots of cows and kangaroos. And she’s a delight to chat with, no matter the topic. You can read Kat’s blog, which even includes a ‘character blog’ about Toby here.

You can buy a copy of On Track from UQP.


This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2015. Re-blogging is always highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

One thought on “Book Review: On Track by Kathryn Apel

  1. Pingback: What self-care looked like for me this winter | TJ Withers-Ryan

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