Review Blog

Oct 03 2011

On Orchard Road by Elspeth Edgar

cover image

Walker Books, 2011. ISBN 978 1 921720 29 1.
(Ages 10+) Recommended. A gentle story of finding friends in unexpected places, Jane moves to a country town where she knows no-one. A new school, a smaller house, her mother and new baby sister are still in Melbourne, where the baby is in intensive care. Jane is sullen and sometimes uncooperative, but then immediately contrite. An incident on her first day at school puts her off side with a group of the boys, who when seeing her on her bike on the weekend threaten her causing her to fall off and injure herself. She is helped by another boy from school, Michael, and when a woman comes out of the strange dilapidated house nearby to help, Jane feels the tension between her and the others. But taken inside, she soon comes to see that this woman is a recluse, picked on by the same group of boys, and very much alone.
Beautifully written, full of wonderful descriptions, this story will win the readership of many young girls, particularly, in middle school. The change in Jane's life is one felt by all as she must cope with not only living with just her father as he begins his new job, but also find new friends in a new school, and work out where she belongs. All the time the separation of the girl and her mother is felt keenly and the health of her baby sister hangs over them all.
The relationships between Jane and her parents and new sibling are exquisitely told, bringing another layer of reality to the story already overflowing with verisimilitude.
But the old woman draws her back and Jane's life becomes entwined with hers as she learns more about her and her past while they share their innermost thoughts, their writings and drawings. Teamed with Michael at school, they and two others conduct a presentation about the old woman and her garden, showing some of the drawings Jane has done and giving life to the old garden. A lovely story of coming together, of finding new friends, of getting along with those outside your own experience, this story will remind many of the anxiety felt when trying to fit in.
Fran Knight

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