Review Blog

Oct 27 2015

Sian by D Luckett

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A New Australian series. Scholastic, 2015. ISBN 9781742990392
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Wales, Migrants, Port Darwin, Historical novel. The latest book in this series from Scholastic about children who come to Australia as immigrants, introduces Sian, a nine year old girl from a coal mining town in Wales. Her widowed father has thirteen children to raise, and when the eldest girl, Olive, marries Ellis she takes Sian with her, and determining to start afresh in Australia, Sian goes too.
There is no getting away from the dearth of opportunity in the coal mining town, where Sian picks pieces of coal form the leftover heap to keep the household going, her father having had a pit accident and unable to work.
In Australia Ellis can only get piece work ad seeing the opportunities available in Port Darwin, heads there, leaving the two behind in Sydney. Tragedy strikes when Olive dies giving birth and Sian is sent north to be with her brother in law. In Darwin she learns how different life can be. She befriends a Chinese girl, Mae, who lives nearby working in her father's market garden, and learns of the prejudice shown towards the Chinese, even when born in Australia. With the help of her teacher, Miss Roberts, the Chinese grown vegetables get sold in the store, and Mae comes to school. A push by some parents to disallow Mae's attendance is foiled and life goes on.
This charming story shows the reader the breadth of problems awaiting the early settlers in Port Darwin. Having to navigate people's beliefs about the Chinese and the Aborigines, learning to cope with the weather and the cyclones, learning to build their own homes and coping with the local wildlife are only some of the events in this colourful story. The building of Port Darwin is an interesting backdrop to the story of Sian's introduction to her new home, as is her bravery in standing up to bullies.
This series is an outstanding contribution to stories about immigrants and the lives they left behind, the difficulties in adapting to a new land and their reason for doing so.
Teacher notes are available on the Scholastic website, and I think this series would make a wonderful set to use in the classroom both as individual texts, a class text or in a reading circle.
Fran Knight

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