The sun had sneaked out from behind the clouds, and sparkles from the shoes bounded about the grass. Madeleine looked back up. the girl crossed her arms. ‘I was not enquiring after the shrubs, she said imperiously. ‘I want to know what you are doing in Bea’s dress slippers.’
Madeleine is not impressed at being sent to the country to stay with her eccentric grandmother for the holidays, while her big brother gets to stay with his best friend. Staying with Mum Crum means early mornings, yoga and hard work. But when she finds a pair of shoes hidden in the cupboard she is renovating, Madeleine is intrigued and wants to know more. Soon, she is finding out far more than she bargained for, when she finds herself transported back to 1900, to the home of the shoe’s owner.
Now Madeline is part of a family and time where women have no power or independence, as the Federation of Australia’s colonies nears. She witnesses the treatment of Aboriginals, staff and children, and is conflicted about both what she sees and how little she can do to change it. She also watches the family struggle through personal turmoil as she worries about how she will get back to her own time.
When the Lyrebird Calls is an absorbing time-slip novel for children and young adults, set in late colonial Australia, as well as in contemporary Victoria. While a number of issues are explored through the text, the action carries the story so that it does not become issue heavy. Young readers will enjoy being able to see aspects of colonial life through the yes of a contemporary narrator.
When the Lyrebird Calls, by Kim Kane
Allen & Unwin, 2016
‘What are you doing?’ cried a voice. It was high=pitched with fright. ‘You shouldn’t be here. You could get killed.’
Claire tried to open her eyes. Blinding light. Pain shot through her temple. She touched her head with her fingertips. It felt warm and sticky.
‘I say, are you all right?’ came the voice again, a bit softer this time. It was a girl’s voice. ‘You’re bleeding. Can you hear me?’
When her much loved grandmother is ill in hospital, Claire finds a old brooch among her things. It isn’t like her other, expensive jewellery – instead it is a cheap sequin star. Intrigued, Claire puts the brooch in her pocket and when she is in an accident soon afterwards, finds herself swept back in time to 1932. Claire is stranded in a circus camp, working hard and befriending circus performers Rosina and Jem, as well as a boy called Kit who, Claire realises, is her grandfather as a young man. Rosina and Kit are soon quite taken by each other, but Claire wonders whether a rich boy and a circus girl belong together – and what of her grandmother?
The Sequin Star is an exciting time-slip adventure set amidst the back drop of the Great Depression in the weeks around the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Claire’s adventures allow young readers to get a first-hand, modern perspective on both the events and on the contrasts between that time period and the contemporary world.
Likely to appeal to middle and upper primary aged readers.
The Sequin Star, by Belinda Murrell
Random House, 2014
Available from good bookstores or online.
‘Wh…who are you?’ asked Millie, her mouth dry, her heart thumping. ‘What are you doing here?’
The girl stared at her, quiet and mysterious, her dark eyes shining in the dim moonlight. Behind her, Millie thought she could see a shadowy forest of grey-green gum trees and silvery bark. A glimmering river flowed behind her.
‘Are you a ghost or a dream?’ wondered Millie out loud, hugging herself against the pillows.
Millie loves to paint, but when she paints a picture of a girl who appears to her in a dream, it is something special. When her mother takes her and her sister to visit a long-lost aunt in the country, Millie is amazed. The dream girl appears to her again. Could it be that she is somehow connected to the girl?
The River Charm is the story of Oldbury, a colonial estate, and of the Atkinson family, its original owners. In 1839 Charlotte Atkinson, the ghost girl from Millie’s visions, lives in Oldbury with her mother and siblings. Life is difficult. the children’s father has died, and their mother has remarried. their stepfather is a cruel alcoholic, and the entire estate is at risk. Fortunately for the children their mother is determined to keep them safe.
Charlotte Waring Atkinson was the author of the first children’s book published in Australia. This fictionalised account of part of her life is particularly special because it is the work of her great-great-great-great=granddaughter, author Belinda Murrell, whose historical tale makes use of a time slip motif to contrast past and present, as well as making links between the two time periods. Set in the Australian bush, the story will appeal to readers aged 10-14.
The River Charm, by Belinda Murrell
Random House, 2013
Available from good bookstores or here.
You can read more about the writing of this book in Belinda’s blog post here.