Review Blog

Feb 12 2014

Meet Pearlie by Gabrielle Wang

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Ill. by Lucia Masciullo. Our Australian girl series. Penguin, 2014. ISBN 9780143307945.
(Age: 9+) Recommended. Darwin. World War Two. Prejudice. Japanese. Spies. Pearlie and her best friend, Naoko, love being in Darwin. Since first meeting they share everything, their thoughts, secrets, their spare time. But things are changing. American soldiers patrol the streets, the threat of invasion by the Japanese Army to the north seems imminent, people with Japanese or Chinese appearance are treated with suspicion, and some of their school peers tease Naoko, calling her father a Jap spy.
The girls have an adventure in a cave newly uncovered by a rock fall and there they find a battery, which they add to their scrapbook. But Naoko believes a man living close by really is a spy, not her father, so intends to find out if this is true. Things point to Mr Beake's involvement in spying and to get proof the girls break into his house and look around, but when they present their findings to General Mitchell, he has no real evidence to go on. But when Naoko and her family are arrested and taken into detention, and Pearlie realises that she has dropped her bracelet with her name on it in Beake's house, complications compound.
This exciting tale of two girls in Darwin at the outbreak of World War Two is engrossing. Gabrielle Wang has developed two easily identified characters who will reach out to the middle primary reader. These readers will learn about Australia's involvement in war, the prejudice which existed in Darwin towards the Japanese, and certainly have a feel for that developing city. This is the first in a set of four about Pearlie within the Our Australian Girl series which is augmented with teacher notes and extra help on the website.
Fran Knight

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