Tussock, by Elizabeth Pulford

‘Hurry up, slowcoach,’ called Kate. She glanced over at her younger sister. They should be at the hut by now, not hanging about the lake. She’d promised her mum that they wouldn’t be long.
Madeline took no notice. She kept scouring the edge of the water. Picking up one stone after another. Looking at each in turn, feeling them with her fingers and then, dissatisfied, dropping them.

Kate’s dad goes missing on a routine small plane flight. Now all Kate, her sister Madeline and her mother can do is wait. Kate isn’t content to just sit and wait so she goes up to the old hut on the hill behind their farm. She lights a lantern every night, so Dad will see it and know he’s home. Madeline has her own method of ensuring her father’s safety and return. She’s building a stone man. Legend has it that when completed, he will find her father. While visiting the hut they meet Troy, a mysterious boy full of secrets. He might divert all Kate’s questions, but he also provides a distraction while she and her family wait. On the day Kate’s father went missing, they had a fight. Their fight seems so trivial now when compared with the possibility that she might never see him again.

Rites of passage can take many forms, and for Kate, it’s a potential tragedy that helps her grow up. She realises that she’s not the only one who is grieving, is waiting to hear about her dad. She also discovers that not all families are equal, that not every family functions as well as hers has. She is bedded down in a wonderfully comfortable world full of history, love and trust. She develops some perspective on a major family decision that she has been resisting. There are strong themes of family, community, trust and safety. Kate is a resourceful, likable character who keeps the lantern lit for her father, while adjusting to the reality that he may never return. Recommended for upper-primary readers.


Tussock, Elizabeth Pulford
Walker Books Australia 2010
ISBN: 9781921529450

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.