Review Blog

Sep 15 2010

Tussock by Elizabeth Pulford

cover image

Walker Books, 2010. ISBN 9781921529450.
(Age 10-13) Recommended. When Katie's father goes missing on a routine flight, her life is thrown into chaos. Close neighbours and friends try to hold the family together while emergency services search for the fallen plane. Katie believes that if she lights a lamp in the little tin shed on a hill on their property, its light will guide her father home. Her sister Madeleine believes that the fabled Stone Man will find her father, and she builds one out of stones near the tin shed. There they meet Troy, a troubled teen from a nearby camp for disadvantaged youth, and the mystery surrounding him brings danger to the girls. The search for the girls' father loses momentum as the police use their resources to search for a dangerous criminal at loose in the area.
Author Elizabeth Pulford has written an intriguing story that kept me interested to the end. On one hand I was engrossed with the sisters' use of superstition, which holds them together emotionally as they wait for their father to be saved. I held my breath as Katie crept out at night to light the lantern to guide her father home and empathised with Madeleine she built up a Stone Man that would save her father from drowning. Troy's appearance brought a sense of menace to the story. I was never quite sure if Troy was dangerous or not, but the tension that was built up as he interacted with the girls was quite riveting.
All the characters are described in-depth. Kate is a fully realised young teenager, who feels constrained by her parents and Pulford's description of her feelings, her grief, worry and regrets made me feel as if I knew her. Troy's air of being lost, without a home, is very well done. The growing friendship between the two is beautifully constructed and Troy's sacrifice to save Kate will really appeal to young readers. Secondary characters are also well rounded, in particular Old Jonesy, the farmhand who helps the girls in their grief, and the criminal is frightening.
Set in New Zealand tussock country, this a story that will appeal to young girls, with its touch of romance, mystery and family dilemma.
Pat Pledger

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