Sunshine flickers between the trees and soundproof fence that line the freeway, stabbing my eyes. I squeeze them shut to block it out, but the flashes of red remind me of that judge in her crimson suit and glasses, staring down at me. Her voice booms through my head, in time with the flashes.
‘Pandora, a foster home is your best option at the present.’
I open my eyes, the stabling light less painful than the memory.
Beside me in the driver’s seat, Gemma clears her throat. ‘The McMinns have two other foster children, Pan.’ She twitters like a budgie. ‘Livia’s a couple of years older than you. She’s been there for two years, and Nate … gee, he was five when he arrived, so he must be about ten now.’
Pan is placed in foster care with the McMinns as the result of a court order, but while she has little choice about being there, she sure as heck doesn’t have to like it, or make it easy on her foster carers or herself. And she doesn’t. There’s nothing here she recognises, it’s all too ordered and neat. Nothing like home. And home is where she wants to be. But life seems determined to march on, despite all Pan’s stalling. She is enrolled in a new school and is expected to cooperate, both at school and at home. She writes letters to her sister Morgan, but will not send them, will not talk about her. Pan builds protective walls around her and defends them with sharpened words. No one is getting close to her. No one. She’s just pausing here until she goes home. Only Smocker, a childhood toy cat, is privy to her secrets, her memories.
Pan is an echidna, rolled tight, spines out. She is unpleasant and largely uncooperative at home and school. It would be easy to dislike her, but it’s clear from the outset that she is full of pain, unable and unwilling to trust anyone. Like the echidna, Pan’s softness is hidden and protected allowing only short glimpses of her real character, before pain reclaims her. Her older sister, Livia, isn’t sure she’s worth the trouble, although her younger foster brother keeps trying. Foster parents, Rose and Ian are resolutely positive but firm and for the first time in her life, Pan experiences stability and security. From this base, she can begin to unlock and examine the secrets of her past. A powerful and moving novel from a talented writer. Recommended for mid- to upper-secondary readers.
Pan’s Whisper, Sue Lawson Black
Dog Books 2011
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
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