New Guinea moon by Kate Constable

cover image

Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2013. ISBN 9781743315033.
(Age 13+) Highly recommended. There is a very good reason that Kate Constable was the winner of the CBCA Young Reader award last year: she is a wonderful storyteller. In her latest novel she has crafted a delightful story about a young girl who is finding her way in life, in a country which is also finding its way: both are seeking independence.
Julie is quite literally facing a new chapter in her life. Having been at odds with her mother for some time, is it any wonder that she has been shipped off to spend the summer holidays with her father? However, Julie hasn't seen or heard from her dad since she was 3 years old and he lives in a different country: New Guinea. So Julie is thrown into a new cultural experience on many levels!
This novel explores Julie's situation with credibility, sensitivity and warmth. For Julie is both appalled and fascinated by 1970's New Guinea. She falls in love with the scenery, which is evocatively described by Kate Constable, and she warms to the shy locals. However, Julie finds some of the sights and smells a tad overwhelming and she is dismayed by some of the attitudes displayed by her father's expat friends.
Julie is a credible, warm and intelligent girl. She is sensitive to the nuances of relationships and aware of cultural differences but, realistically, this doesn't mean that she always knows how to deal with difficult situations without causing offence. However, by novel's end, Julie has a clearer path forward: a clearer sense of herself and her relationship with this strange new land.
This is a thoroughly engaging novel; it may be set in an era which is unfamiliar to modern Aussie teens but the political context will not detract from the story's popularity. Indeed, it is explored in such a sensitive and even-handed way that it is more likely to engage readers.
Deborah Marshall