Review Blog

May 05 2010

Esty's gold by Mary Arrigan

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Frances Lincoln Children's books. ISBN 9781845079659.
Middle Primary. Well recommended. Detailed, accurate and with a strong sense of story, the reader lives with Esty as the famine in Ireland takes its toll on so many families. Esty fares better than many and becomes a maid in a big house. As the family's fortunes fluctuate, she as a very astute young girl, convinces His Lordship that the family should travel to Australia not America. Esty has befriended May, a lady's maid and John Joe who cared for the horses but was a 'Whiteboy' (those who were trying to fight the crippling rents and evictions from the landlords) and so there was Mama, Grandpa, Esty, May and John Joe who boarded the ship to Australia. They travel to the goldfields of Ballarat where they find a tough environment, but Esty has her dreams and the hazardous occurrences of the goldfields strengthen her motivation to make a proper and successful life for them all. This she does.
This would be a wonderful novel for middle primary students who are studying the famine in Ireland and the struggles people made to get to the goldfields and the subsequent difficulties with miner's licences, appalling living conditions, and lack of fresh vegetables and meat. Yet it is a story full of positive and very human reactions.
Well worth a place in primary schools.
Sue Nosworthy

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