I was always unlucky. Unlucky thirteenth child, I was. Unlucky for my mam. She died. I didn’t know anything about it but there’s bad luck for you. I always knew it, even when I was little.
There had to be someone to take up the bad luck going around, didn’t there? My da was a lucky man, they said. A pitface fell on him, and he never walked straight again but that was lucky because five other men died in that accident and he got a pension from the union. As well as that, the company gave him free rent on the house in Caradog Street for the rest of his life. Everyone said it was very good of the company to do that. They didn’t have to, you know.
Sian is the youngest of a large Welsh family living in a small mining town where everyone is involved in coal mining in some way. The only ‘mother’ she’s known is her older sister Olive. Sian, her dad and all her siblings crowd into a small house and do what they can to survive. She is always in trouble and always riling Dad up, no matter how she tries not to. She even manages to interrupt as Ellis is asking Dad for permission to marry Olive. After a beating, Olive makes a decision that will change not only her life, but that of Sian too. The story shifts to Australia as Olive, Ellis and Sian travel by ship to seek a better life. Sian begins her Australian life in Sydney but soon moves to the fledgling town of Darwin. Both towns are very different to home.
‘Sian: A New Australian’ is part of a series from Scholastic exploring the lives of new Australians. Previous titles include ‘Kerenza’ and ‘Bridget’. Sian’s story is set in 1910. She is a bright and resourceful protagonist, even when it seems that her ‘luck’ continues to set the world against her. She adapts to the changes in her life with curiosity, positivity and hard work. Although she has little involvement in early decisions that affect her life, she is thoughtful and brave when the time comes when she must make decisions for herself. This, as with other titles in the series, offers young readers insights into Australian history through the eyes of characters of their own age. Recommended for mid-primary readers.
Sian: A New Australian, D. Luckett
Scholastic Australia 2015 ISBN: 9781742990392
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller