Review Blog

Jun 30 2015

Kerenza by Rosanne Hawke

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A New Australian series. Scholastic, 2015. ISBN 9781742990606
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended. Historical novel, Early settlement, Migration, South Australia. When her father knows that the mine will soon be closed he decides to join his brother in the Mallee in South Australia to set up a farm. It is a great opportunity to have their own land and raise crops to sell in this newly opened area of South Australia. But there is scrub to be cleared before any planting can occur, and Rosanne Hawke shows just how determined these immigrants were in carving out a niche for themselves in their new home.
But it is also the tale of Kerenza. She has left her beloved Gran, sister and friend in Cornwall, to move with her family, and in the Mallee there is so much work to be done. While the men clear the land with axes and a horse, she must wash, iron, make bread, look after her siblings, clean the oven in their tent house. Her mother is increasingly tired and Kerenza is called in to help more often, and when she falls over must go to the city to recuperate and wait for her baby to be born.
Meanwhile Kerenza and her siblings are learning to get along with their cousins, sometimes difficulties arise but when Kerenza finds a friend on the nearby property, things begin to look up. Her interaction with an Aboriginal girl who lives rough with her father, a swaggie, means that the way is laid for these families to help each other times of need.
I loved this story of our early Cornish pioneers and read it in one sitting, eager to see where Rosanne Hawke would take the reader, knowing that she handles the tale of migration with such certitude that every reader will learn something new and be amazed. I had no idea about how to dig a well, or how these people cleared the land, nor did I realise how they lived until the family had time to build a dwelling. The richness of the background often made me stop and think or reach for the iPad.
This is one of a new series from Scholastic, A New Australian, and will add to the range of books revealing how Australia is a land of immigrants to a younger generation.
Fran Knight

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