It’s late, just before lights-out, and we’re all tucked up in bed. My book is facedown in my lap, untouched. It’s too cold to read; it is the dead of winter, my breath hangs like mist in front of my face. A few beds down, Ronnie is sniping across the aisle at Kendall – ‘Hey KFC. Albino pubes. Have you wet yourself tonight?’ – and Portia, in the bed beside her, laughs.
A boarding school in the bush, where students can learn resilience and confidence, and gain physical fitness and endurance, sounds like a wonderful thing. But when the level of supervision is low, and bullying behaviour is largely unchecked, it can be a recipe for disaster.
Rebecca Starford spent a year in such a boarding school when she was fourteen. At times one of the bullies, at others a victim, the decisions she made and the things she endured and witnessed, shaped the woman she became. In Bad Behaviour she presents an honest memoir of that time and of her years beyond boarding school as she struggled to reconcile both her time at boarding school, and the self she had become, including coming to terms with her sexuality.
Bad Behaviour: A Memoir of Bullying and Boarding School is, from the opening pages, confronting, but it is also a story of triumph, with happier moments and a level of honesty and openness which is utterly readable. Although billed as a memoir for adults, it would also be suitable for older teens.
Gripping, moving and extraordinary honest.
Bad Behaviour: A Memoir of Bullying and Boarding School, by Rebecca Starford
Allen & Unwin, 2015
Alice-Miranda, some of her classmates and some from their brother-school are part of a choir. They are in Paris at short notice to sing at special events mostly to do with Fashion Week. But of course, wherever Alice-Miranda is, there is intrigue. And Paris is no exception. As their teachers strive to ensure the group is entertained, fed, rehearsed and on time for all their engagements, mysteries seem to multiply.
‘Oh wow, look at that!’ Jacinta exclaimed as she pointed at an impressive building in the distance. The limestone mansion glistened in the summer sunshine.
‘It’s the hotel de ville,’ Millie replied. She had been consulting her guidebook as the group marched along the northern side of the river Seine. ‘But it’s not a hotel. It’s the mayor’s office. Pretty fancy, hey?’
‘I’ll say. Paris is so beautiful,’ said Jacinta, as the children passed yet another magnificent row of townhouses. ‘It’s no wonder they call it the City of Love.’
Alice-Miranda, some of her classmates and some from their brother-school are part of a choir. They are in Paris at short notice to sing at special events mostly to do with Fashion Week. But of course, wherever Alice-Miranda is, there is intrigue. And Paris is no exception. As their teachers strive to ensure the group is entertained, fed, rehearsed and on time for all their engagements, mysteries seem to multiply. If trying to manage a group of inquisitive children is challenging in any classroom, the challenges are multiplied when that group is in a foreign city, and that group contains Alice-Miranda and her friends.
Alice-Miranda is an expensively-dressed Pollyanna mixed with Sherlock Holmes! She sees the best in everyone, despite being exposed to all manner of behaviours by people with few excuses. Wealth offers no immunity from behaving well. She sees rudeness as the behaviour of unhappy people and she likes people to be happy. She sails through situations that would daunt far taller people. She is forthright and helpful, inquisitive and resourceful, the perfect young heroine. And who wouldn’t like the opportunity to visit Paris, to sing at shows and to visit magical places? There are dramas and red herrings, outbursts and surprising clues. Alice-Miranda invites all to participate in the mystery of life and to look beyond the obvious to find what people really want and need. Recommended for confident readers in middle-primary.
Alice-Miranda in Paris by Jacqueline Harvey Random House 2013 ISBN: 9781742752884
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author