Sadie isn’t happy that her mother has brought her to live in Boort, a small country town where she doesn’t know anyone and where there’s nothing to do. She’s lonely at school, and at home she fights constantly with her mother about the change. But on a walk around the town Sadie discovers a a sacred site, and soon starts hearing the local crows talking to her, telling her she must tell the story of what happened here.
Far below, the crow saw a tiny speck move along a muddy track. It was a human girl-child. She tramped along, her head down, ignoring the country around her and the small town at her back. The girl did not see the paddocks, the railway line, the trees, the birds, the clouds. Her eyes were fixed on her own muddy shoes and the boggy road she walked on.
Sadie isn’t happy that her mother has brought her to live in Boort, a small country town where she doesn’t know anyone and where there’s nothing to do. She’s lonely at school, and at home she fights constantly with her mother about the change. But on a walk around the town Sadie discovers a a sacred site, and soon starts hearing the local crows talking to her, telling her she must tell the story of what happened here. With two local boys – Jamie the son of the wealthy land owner, and Walter, an Aboriginal boy sent to live in Boort to keep out of trouble – Sadie starts to uncover events that happened in the twon in the years following WW1. The crows tell her she must find a way to rght the wrongs of the past, to avoid history repeating itself.
Crow Country is an intense time slip tale, set chiefly in the modern day, with Sadie slipping back int ime several times and living events through the eyes of her great aunt Sadie at a similar age. Sadie is the unwitting witness to a killing and cover up, with three modern day friends all related to the three invovled in the murder – the victim, the killer and the man who helped cover it up. There are lots of issues explored here including racism, respect of indigenous culture and connection with the land, loyalty and honesty.
Suitable for readers in upper primary and teens, this is an absorbing read.
Crow Country, by Kate Constable
Allen & Unwin, 2011
This book is available in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
I was thinking about what you said all the way home. Of course I trust you!!!! I can’t believe you need to ask. It’s just that after all this time, I’d almost given up hope that I would find anybody special. I’m so scared that talking about it, even thinking about it, will jinx it and it (he!!) will slip away before anything has a chance to happen. So please forgive me for not wanting to talk about it out loud. (Because you never know who might be listening!) But I know I CAN trust you not to tell anyone. So yes, it’s true, (here goes, deep breath):
I think I might be in love!!
But you already guessed that.
India has skills which help her to predict the future, and Poppy is trying to change her past, but they have nothing in common. Until they land themselves in trouble and have to clean out the school attic together as punishment. Among the dusty boxes and old school play props, they find a bundle of old letters and can’t help but read them. Who is the mysterious Swoosie, and what connection does she have to the girls? As they find out, the pair find themselves working together to try to heal old wounds.
Dear Swoosie is a story about the challenges and the joys of teenage friendship, as well as about love and about family relationships. Written by the talented pairing of Kate Constable and Penni Russon, and using a combination of alternating first person narrators and letter format, this is another wonderful addition to the Girlfriend Fiction series.
Dear Swoosie (Girlfriend Fiction), by Kate Constable & Penni Russon
Allen & Unwin, 2010
This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
Eloise floated on a sea of red and orange swirls. Dazzling golden threads shimmered through the cloth, the tiny fish embroidered on Mum’s favourite skirt. Mum’s arms were around her and Mum was singing softly.
…and little fishes, way down below, wiggle their tails, and away they go…
She was falling asleep on Mum’s lap, safe and warm, wrapped in the billows of her skirt. The red and gold and purple of memory enfolded her and floated her away.’ ‘Wake up, El for Leather!’
Eloise’s eyes sprung open, and she struggled upright. A sheet of white light flashed from the rear window of the car in front, blinding her. She shut her eyes again and watched a dark shape drift down the inside of her eyelids, then jump up again, over and over, endlessly receding but never quite fading away.
Twelve-year-old Eloise has been silent for the last two years, since her mother died in a car accident. Her father concocts grand schemes that never seem to pan out, just like the girlfriends that never last. Eloise and Dad have moved many times in the past two years. This time they are moving to Turner, the town where Dad grew up. Dad has plans to turn the house his mother grew up in into a convention centre. Mo, his mother and Eloise’s grandmother lives in a little house in town. She is trapped inside her house, too scared to leave. Tommy, the boy next door does her shopping. Mo and Dad are only recently speaking to each other after a fight five years earlier. Dad dumps Eloise with the grandmother she hardly knows and disappears back to the city in search of finance for his latest grand plan. Eloise is fascinated by the big old house, and Mo seems happy for her to find her own entertainment. Then Eloise meets a girl in the old summerhouse, a girl just younger than her. Mo says the family has a history of running away from their problems. This summer, Eloise must face hers.
Cicada Summer is a story of the different ways people respond to trauma. First there is Eloise, who in response to her mother’s death, has simply ceased speaking. She expresses herself in her drawing. Eloise’s Dad races furiously into the future, meeting and discarding girlfriends frequently, never stopping to examine what’s important in his life. Mo has become so accustomed to living within the four walls of her house, that she is as prickly as a cactus. The Durranis next door have fled Afganistan and are working to establish a new life. Linking them is a rundown old house. Eloise struggles to understand the mystery surrounding the house. In doing this, she comes to understand herself a little, and helps her father and grandmother address their own issues and behaviours. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.
Cicada SummerKate Constable
Allen & Unwin 2009
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
This book is available online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
It wasn’t possible that Jay could like me better than Stella – Stella’s the pretty one. I’m short and frizzy-haired and just generally blah. Maybe he was concussed and he’d mixed up our names. That would be it.
Bridie and Stella have been best friends for ever, and nothing is going to change that. So, as war looms, they are united in their opposition, and attend a peace rally. But when they rescue a boy who is attacked at the rally it starts a chain of events which sees their friendship threatened.
Jay, the boy they rescue, seems to be attracted to Bridie – but is Stella who always gets the boys. There is more. Jay is a committed Christian, and as Bridie gets to know him and his religion, the strain it places on her friendship with Stella is immense. Bridie isn’t even sure she can be friends with Stella any more.
Winter of Grace explores issues of friendship, religion, and family relationships, as Bridie struggles in her search for meaning to life and a need to belong. Both her friend Stella and her mother have issues with organised religion, and Bridie is pressured by the opposing views of those two and of her new friends. Author Constable is to be commended for exploring an issue not often covered in teen fiction and for avoiding being prescriptive or simplistic in the resolution.
Part of the Girlfriend Fiction series, and with a romantic element, Winter of Grace will appeal to teen girls.
Winter of Grace, by Kate Constable
Allen & Unwin, 2009
This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
‘We’re doomed.’ Bec dumped her bags beneath the grimy window of the converted shearers shed. ‘We’re all going to die.’
‘Doomed to death?’ said Iris. ‘That’s got to be a tautology.’
‘We won’t die,’ said Georgia. ‘You never know, it might even be fun.’
I said, ‘Can I have the top bunk?’
So what did that say about me?
On the flimsy evidence available, it might seem that I was a practical, confident, brisk kind of person who’d rather get one with things than stand around arguing.
Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong again, which shows how inaccurate first impressions can be.
Always Mackenzie begins on the first day of a term-long camp at Heathersett River, the country campus of a private school. Year Ten will spend a term there. Within the first page the reader is introduced to Jem and her three close friends. Camp is supposed to break down the barriers between ‘cliques’ and provide opportunities for all the girls to learn more about themselves and each other. And to some extent it workes. Jem (nerd) and Mackenzie (golden) get to know each other. Georgia (Jem’s friend) and Rosie (Mackenzie’s friend) also become friends. The term ends and they return to regular school. Both new and old friendships are tested. Jem has always been one of the ‘good’ students, managing to swim her way through secondary school avoiding any undue attention. But she can’t stand by when her friend is being bullied. A firm believer in truth and justice, she is stunned at the response to her honesty.
Jem is a reader, a diligent student, a quite achiever. Her life has been ordered, buffered by three friends she met when she began Year Seven. The worst thing about school camp is that she is not allowed to take any books. A pact with Mackenzie to ‘remain enemies’ in the face of saccharine-sweet pretend friendships transforms into a friendship that continues when they return to school. But what was easy to sustain at Heathersett River is much more difficult back at school. Always Mackenzie is a novel about the nature of friendships, the danger of secrets and the complex masks that seldom protect.
This is title 4 in the new Girlfriend series from Allen & Unwin. Although there are common elements to the packaging of this series, each cover is distinctive and engaging, enticing mid-teens into substantial stories. Recommended for 13-16 year olds.
Always Mackenzie, by Kate Constable
Allen & Unwin 2008
This book is available online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
The great Wall of Antaris reared over them. Calwyn’s breath caught in her throat…Something was different. It wasn’t just that she viewed the wall from outside now. What was missing was her awareness of the magic that had built and sustained the mighty rampart of ice, the living power that hummed through it and crackled around it.
When Calwyn loses all her powers of chantment, she heads home to Antaris seeking solace and understanding from the community. Instead, she finds many of the sisters dead or dying from a mysterious sickness, and in the grips of tyranny from the order’s new leader.
Instead of being welcomed, Calwyn is forced to hide, until events in the community lead her to reveal herself. With all of Tremaris suffering an endless winter, Calwyn and her friends know they have to leave Antaris and search for some answers. But will those answers come in time to save Darrow, who has been infected by the sickness? Calwyn is sure she couldn’t live without him, even though the loss of her powers has put a great strain on their relationship.
This is the third and, sadly, the final installment in the Chanters of Tremaris series. Those who have read the first two volumes will be satisfied with this one, which rounds out the quest of the young friends.
Calwyn is a well-developed character, who has grown through the three books from a young girl into an adult who is constantly learning and maturing. Her friendships are deep, yet complex and, all too often for Calywn’s liking, complicated. There are some unexpected twists in these relationships, which prevent the book from becoming predictable.
Aimed at a teen audience, this series has been deservedly loved by many young readers. The conclusion will not disappoint.
The Tenth Power, by Kate Constable
Allen & Unwin, 2005
Calwyn and her friends patrol the seas near their island home, making them safe from pirates. One of those they rescue, Heben, has come in search of them, hoping they can help free the children trapped in a palace in Merithuros.
In Mertithros, Calwyn, Mica and Halasaa cross a barren desert to the Palace of Cobwebs, the home of the Emperor. But there they encounter great danger. The sorceror Amagis is plotting to overthrow the Empire and the three must combine their magic and their skill to rescue the five children they find whose job it is to hold the palace together, and escape alive.
Then they must undertake an even more dangerous quest – to Hathara and the Black Palace, home of the Iron Workers.
Meanwhile their friend Darrow is also in Hathara, marching on the palace with rebels intent on overthrowing the empire. Can Calwyn and her friends still trust him?
The Waterless Sea is a satisfying sequel to The Singer of All Songs. Favourite characters are further developed and faced with new and intriguing obstacles. A captivating read.
The Waterless Sea, by Kate Constable
Allen & Unwin, 2003
The wall of ice that surrounds Antaris is impenetrable. No one can get in or out of the land without the powerful chantments of the priestesses who live within the wall. So, when Calwyn finds an unconcious stranger lying inside the great wall, she can’t believe her eyes. Somehow this stranger has achieved the impossible.
Calywn decides to help the man, and is drawn into the biggest adventure of her life – a quest which may impact not only on her own future, but on that of the whole of Tremaris.
With Darrow (the injured man) she meets and journeys with Tonno and Xanni, fisherman brothers, Mica, who can call the wind, Halasaa, who can talk to the beasts without words, and young Trout. Together the group hopes to defeat the evil sorcerer Samis, who seeks to master all Nine mystical powers of Chantment and so be the Singer of All Songs, and ruler of Tremaris.
This refreshing fantasy is a gripping read, with appeal to both female and male readers, from teen to adult.
Kate Constable has previously had stories published in various literary magazines. This is her first novel.
The Singer of All Songs, by Kate Constable
Allen & Unwin, 2002