Firesong, by Libby Hathorn

From the back verandah, Ingrid Crowe watched her dog Blackie chase a stray bird across the garden. She saw the tall gum tree giving slightly in the breeze and, beneath it, her little sister Pippa playing happily in the sand pit. It looked the same as any other day out there. But it wasn’t. Her mother had just told her something bad. Something so shocking it was going to change her whole world. Ingrid’s mother had told her she was going to burn their house down.

Ingrid Crowe is twelve years old. Her father has re-partnered. Her two brothers have been sent to a foster home on a farm. Her grandmother recently died. It’s just Ingrid, her little non-speaking sister Pippa and Mum left in the house. And there’s no money. Then Ingrid discovers that her mother has devised a plan to make them some money. She proposes to burn down the house for the insurance money. Her mother is fierce in her determination and insists that Ingrid help her. Ingrid knows it’s wrong, but she doesn’t know what to do. A song, ‘Fire! Liar! Fire!’ plays over and over in her head. She can see no way to save her family and the house that she loves, with all its good memories. Over the course of a day, she contemplates many options. There are many people she could talk to, but whatever action she takes, she’s afraid of the consequences.

Ingrid Crowe has already had to grow up fast. Firesong is told in third person intimate and the reader gets as close to her as is possible, as she struggles with a dilemma that no one should ever have to face. The viewpoint allows some of the unreliable narrator elements that accompany first person, while allowing the reader a little broader view. Ingrid’s mother is desperate and their poverty has lead her to plan a desperate act. Ingrid loves her mother and wants to believe that her mother is doing what’s best. It’s a cross-road for Ingrid: to believe her mother and do as she is told, or to listen to her conscience and begin to be her own person. Along the journey, the reader discovers how the family arrived at this point. Recommended for early-secondary readers and mature upper primary readers.

Fire Song, Libby Hathorn
ABC Books 2009 ,br>ISBN: 9780733324208

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author