The secret place by M.L. Simmons

cover image

Little Steps Publishing, 2016. ISBN 9781925117998
(Age: 9+) Recommended. Themes: Mystery Adventure; Farm life; Bushfire. This charming story of the life of a young lad in rural Australia begins with the reporting of an unusual event after a bushfire, with a mystery involving a discovered skeleton that was inexplicably connected to saving Andrew's life. Later we read of the events that led to this unusual event. Andrew has lived on an isolated rural property all his life - beyond Bourke - which means School of the Air via Radio and a life of farm-related skills and activities. A shift to another property means life is about to change in many ways, including the chance to attend a 'real' school. However the majority of this book is about the celebration of the rural life, the Aussie bush, and family; with the warmth of a genuine insight into this young lad's life on a farming property. The mystery of an unusual neighbour, a quirky Aunt and a wild and remote 'secret' picnic spot all intertwine to lead to an explanation of the opening mystery.
This story is worthy of recommending to a young reader who is also on the verge of change and ready to demonstrate their independence. The Australian countryside and farm and family life is the star in this simple and innocent tale. City dwelling children will perhaps be amazed at the chores and tasks that Andrew and his siblings are required to do as part of their rural life.
Carolyn Hull