Roman Holiday, by Kathy Buchanan

‘Mrs Rizzo,’ I said shyly, looking over at the Italian woman who’d just picked me up from Rome airport. She was going to be my ‘house mother’ at the Giovane Drammatico Collegio. ‘I know it’s late, but do you think we could make a stop at the Trevi Fountain, even just for a minute? My mum told me when she visited Rome she made a wish there and it came true.’ As soon as I’d met Mrs Rizzo I could tell she was really nice, but I still felt stupid asking.
‘Veronica, darling, the school looks – er…lovely!’ said Mother, trying her best to sound convincing as eh looked dubiously at Giovane Drammatico Collegio.
I was already in a seriously bad mood after surviving the ten-hour flight in premium economy class (gross) and no first class like I’d been promised. then to top it all off, I find out the supposedly exclusive summer acting school I’d had to audition for and pull serious strings to get into was a crumbly old dump.

Natalie and Veronica have both come to Rome to spend their summer at the Giovane Drammatico Collegio, honing their acting skills. But that’s where the similarities between them end. Natalie has travelled from Australia and her family have scrimped to get her there. To help pay her tuition fees, she will also work in the Collegio kitchen. Veronica, from New York, and is used to having the best, or at least the most expensive of everything. Her parents are divorced and Veronica lives with her mother, although this doesn’t stop her spending her father’s money. It is no surprise then, that these two girls are to spend the summer sharing a room. The scene is set for an exciting summer. Both must prove themselves worthy if they are to win a place in the end of summer production.

Roman Holiday uses alternating first person voice (and font) to bring the reader close to both the main characters. Natalie is shy, except when she’s on stage, and Veronica’s over-the-top bad-girl behaviour is a mask that she wears for protection. Kathy Buchanan presents the reader with one likeable main character and one very unlikeable one. She then sets about unravelling initial judgements as slowly she exposes Veronica’s secrets and Natalie’s strengths. Each has come to Rome with expectations and hopes. Rome and the Collegio deliver, but not necessarily in the way they expect. Recommended for upper primary-early secondary readers.

Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday, Kathy Buchanan
Scholastic 2010
ISBN: 9781741693904

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Exchanging Lives, by Kathy Buchanan

This morning when I walked into school for the last time in three whole months, I knew my life would never be the same again.

Just one more day. One more day and I won’t have those three freakazoids annoying me for a whole term.

Annie and Charlie used to be best friends, as their mothers still are. But somewhere in the last twelve months things have changed. Charlie is not sure what happened, but Annie has decided she is ‘school royalty in training’, one of the popular girls. She no longer has any time for the daggy Charlie. Annie and Charlie have been selected to spend three months in USA and both girls are thrilled. Annie is going to New York and plans to enjoy all the fashion and fashionable places. Charlie, a pacifist and animal lover is equally thrilled about her host family who have a farm in Ohio. Their parents have a twist in mind however and reveal it as the two girls are about to board their planes. If they were estranged before, the twist their parents deliver firms their mutual antipathy. Their three months are going to be even more than they bargained for.

Exchanging Lives is about two fourteen year old girls in year eight. Primary school is a memory and the first year of secondary school is behind them. They are trying on personas as well as clothes. Their world tends to be very black and white. Kathy Buchanan gives us insights from each girl with alternating chapters. Different fonts keep the girls’ first person voices separate. Initially, Annie is painted as a bad girl and Charlie, the good girl, although both are determined to dislike their experience. The first person narratives are interspersed with emails to each other, because although they were determined not to like each other or their destination, only the other can really understand their situation. Both girls learn a lot about themselves and each other in the three months away. They also learn to look beyond the surface impressions they have of their host families and school mates. Recommended for upper-primary to early-secondary readers.

Exchanging Lives

Exchanging Lives, Kathy Buchanan
Scholastic 2009

ISBN: 9781741693898

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author