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Audrey goes to town by Christine Harris

cover image Little Hare Books, 2008.
(Age 8-12) The adventures of Audrey take a twist when her family relocates to Beltana, a town in South Australia's Flinder's Ranges, for a month. Here they board with Mrs Patterson, known in the town as Patterson's curse, a noxious weed. But Audrey's inquisitive nature and endearing ability to put people on their back foot, undermines the prickly nature of the woman at every turn.

Mrs Patterson takes on Audrey as a project, wanting to teach her manners, how to knit and behave like a lady. Audrey in turn wants to find her good side, and beguilingly does so as she talks the older woman into wearing a yellow ribbon and coming along to the Beltana dance. Ann James' perfect illustrations keep us guessing until the very last chapter about what Mrs Patterson looks like, and her sly little glance at Audrey is enough to make any reader's heart melt.

Christine Harris' ability to make places and people come alive is nowhere more evident than in this, the second of the series, Audrey of the outback. Younger readers will readily see with Audrey's eyes, her new home, the dusty wide streets, the houses, the people who live there. She innocently compares her house with that of Mrs Patterson, revelling in the different rooms, the windows, the linoleum and the table, but soon longs for the dirt floors and glassless windows of her home. Beltana now is little more than a ruin, but Christine Harris fills the place with life, revealing it in its useful days before the railway bypassed it. And along the way, readers will learn many of the expressions and words no longer in use, and fittingly, there is a glossary of 'interesting words' to help people remember them.
Fran Knight


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