Ruby of Kettle Farm by Penny Matthews
Ill. by Lucia Masciullo. Our Australian Girl series, bk 4.
Penguin Australia, 2013.ISBN: 9780143307457.
Highly recommended for 8-11 year olds. Themes: Farm Life, Family Life, Historical Fiction, Great Depression - Australia. The Our Australian Girl series are extremely popular with students from eight to eleven years of age. Penny Matthews' novels follow the ups and downs of twelve year old Ruby Quinlan's life. This final novel is set in rural South Australia in 1931. Ruby has settled in to life on Kettle Farm, helping her cousin May with the chores, looking after the chickens and weeding the vegetable patch. Her faithful dog Baxter is a constant friend. Unfortunately Ruby discovers the truth behind her father's long absence and lack of response to her letters. She also finds out the real reason her family had to leave behind their big Adelaide house and comfortable lifestyle. Ruby shows resilience throughout her family's difficult times. She outfoxes the chicken thief, shows friendliness and acceptance to the poorer West children and supports her mother as well.
Interwoven through this story are wonderful pictures of real life in the 1930's, food, schooling, daily chores, different classes of society, clothing, right down to boiling rags for handkerchiefs and using eucalyptus oil when the family are sick with a cold. Ruby and May's adventure into Adelaide to search for Ruby's father highlights the impact of the times with the homeless men unable to find work camping in humpies by the River Torrens.
As the story concludes resolution and reconciliation occur and Ruby remembers her year as both strange and marvellous. Lucia Mascuillo's delightful pencil sketches add interest throughout the story. Additional facts are included about real life in the 1930s.