Song of the Dove, by Errol Broome & Sonia Kretschmar

Arm in arm, they trod the cobbled streets to the city square. Bellini pointed to two birds nesting close, one white, the other speckled grey. “They are always together,” he told Maddalena …
“Doves live in pairs,” said Maddalena. “And they stay that way for life.”
“As we shall,” said Bellini.

This beautiful picture book tells the story of the Italian composer Bellini’s career and his forbidden romance. As a young man studying music in Naples he meets and falls in love with Maddalena, but when her parents refuse to allow them to marry, he vow that he will become successful and they will be together after he has written his tenth opera. Living apart, the two pine for each other, and by the time the tenth opera is written both have broken hearts. Their deaths mean that they can be together forever just as promised.

This is a sad tale, based on the true story of Vincenzo Bellini, and includes a brief back of book note on his story and his operas. The digital illustration work of Sonia Kretschmar is breathtaking, with mystic elements such as the siren beckoning from the piano as he writes to Maddalena giving the reader much to think about.

Suitable for middle primary and older readers, this is an outstanding picture book.

Song of the Dove

Song of the Dove, by Errol Broome & Sonia Kretschmar
Walker Books, 2011
ISBN 9780143305323

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Gracie and the Emperor, by Errol Broome

When Gracie hears that Napoleon is coming to live on the island of St Helena, she is terrified. She has heard tales of this man, painting him as a monster. She wants nothing to do with him, refusing even to make his bed in the boarding house where she works.

Forced to find new employment, circumstances take a strange turn when she ends up working at the house where Napoleon is guest while his own house is prepared. Still scared, she avoids him at all costs as she goes about her work. Gradually, however she becomes aware that he is just a man, with emotions like any other person, and that he has been broken by the events which brought him to the island.

It seems, too, that Napoleon is aware of Gracie. Although they have never met, they cross paths regularly, and Napoleon takes an interest in her circumstances, managing along the way to make her life a little easier.

Gracie and the Emperor makes use of an interesting combination of fact and fiction. Gracie and her story are products of the author’s imagination, but of course Napoleon Bonaparte is not. Author Errol Broome tells a story of what life may have been like for Napoleon after his defeat, entwining it with the imaginary life a young island resident.

Suitable for children aged 10 to 14, this is a special book.

Gracie and the Emperor, by Errol Broome
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Cry of the Karri, by Errol Broome

Aiden has been looking forward to this bush walking weekend for ages. Now that he’s here he’s not so sure. His friend Titch is being bossy and showing off, his socks are causing blisters, and worst of all, his step-sister is in hospital – and it’s his fault. When he is lost, things get even worse.

Aiden finds himself drawn into the family of another boy who was lost in the bush two years ago. They mistakenly think Aiden is their son, and Aiden is caught up in their lives and in the other boy’s mystery. Will he suffer the same fate or will he be able to bring some peace to both families?

Cry of the Karri is a novel of adventure and intrigue, with just a hint of the supernatural. As Aiden searches for answers about his own life he is caught in the parallels between his life and that of the missing boy, Dugald. The novel will appeal to children aged ten to fourteen, especially boys.

Errol Broome grew up in Western Australia and now lives in Melbourne. Her earlier children’s novels have received many awards and nominations. Cry of the Karri is another excellent offering.

Cry of the Karri, by Errol Broome
Allen & Unwin, 2001