Finch by Penny Matthews
Walker Books, 2018, ISBN 9781760650759
(Ages: 9+) Highly recommended. Themes: Country towns, Family, Vineyards. When Audrey and her family move to a small wine growing community after dad lost his job in the city, everyone is put out. Audrey and her sister miss their friends and school back in the city, Mum cannot believe that her husband wants to try his hand at farming and Dad is all at sea worrying about his new workload.
Audrey has always been on the outer at school, her love of birds makes her a bit of a nerd in the eyes of the other girls, so when she meets a boy living in a cave near the edge of their property she cannot believe how easily she talks to him, and they share her interest in birds. He swears her to secrecy, having left his uncle's farm where he worked because he was abused, but when a flash flood occurs and Audrey thinks the cave may be under water, she must divulge her secret.
This story will carry along the reader, hooked in by the story of the boy in the cave, wanting to follow his relationship with Audrey and find out just who he is. Along the way information is given about birds, particularly the Emu wren, an endangered scrub bird, rarely seen.
Audrey is a captivating character. Readers will follow her exploits with interest, willing her to fit into her new community, but aware of the problems the family is facing. The people within that community are lovingly composed and developed - we feel we know Mavis and her brother: the teacher and other students at the school, the people at the gift shop. Readers will be drawn to the references to food and its place within the town, the CWA, SES volunteers and the shop owners. Readers will feel like they can walk down the main street with the girls, recognising places described within the book and feel comforted as is Audrey by its familiarity.