‘Kerenza! Come back here! You have to pack your trunk.’ Wenna’s calling me, but I won’t go to her. I’ve had enough of packing and looking after Kitto. I race away from my sister, down the cobbled street, past the chapel and past my friend Maylene, who waves at me, but I don’t even stop for her. I turn into the lane to the stile and climb over it into Penponds woods. This is my favourite place. I walk under the huge trees and sit beside the stream. It bubbles and gurgles past my feet, and the sound calms my breathing.
Kerenza and her family are leaving the only home she’s ever known in Cornwall to travel by ship to Australia. What makes it even worse, her sister and grandmother are not coming with them. She is going to miss the woods, her home, her friends. But with the closing of the mine where her father works there’s little choice. The contrast between Cornwall and the Mallee where her father and his brother have bought land couldn’t be more marked. For a start, there’s no house. In fact there’s very little, except bush. They are living in tents, while the men and older boys help with land clearing. One of her cousins seems determined to ridicule her, while the other helps her find her way in this new country. But slowly the country, and its people begin to grow on her and she finds beauty in the bush, and friends in unexpected places.
‘Kerenza : A New Australian’ tells the story of a girl taken from everything familiar and taken to a totally foreign environment. Although a story of a specific girl, it offers an opportunity for young readers to inhabit the skin of any ‘New Australian’ and to try to see Australia from their perspective. Kerenza tells her own story and this leaves room for the reader to use their imagination to fill in some of the gaps between her words. Why is her cousin so horrible? Why doesn’t her mother understand? Kerenza also offers the opportunity to understand the challenges for a new family trying to make a home and displaced occupants trying to find a way to continue with their way of life. Roseanne Hawke credits both family and historical sources in the creation of this novel. Young readers will empathise with Kerenza’s challenges and rejoice with her when she finds her way in her new home. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.
Kerenza : A New Australian, Roseanne Hawke
Omnibus Books 2015 ISBN: 9781742990606
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller