By Rosanne Hawke; Kerenza: a new Australian – Omnibus/Scholastic, 1 April 2015, 256pp., $15.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781742 990606
I always enjoy reading history books from a first person point of view, even if the person doesn’t quite exist, so I really enjoyed Kerenza: A New Australian. Kerenza is from Cornwall and the time is 1911. Her da (father) can no longer get work as a miner so Kerenza and most of her family move to South Australia and take up a farming life.
Life is very different in the mallee scrub; the temperature, the people she meets, the animals and plants she comes across – even the dangers she must face are different (and a lot scarier) than those back in Cornwall. Her cousins speak a strange slang and cousin Jacob, whom Kerenza believes is the meanest boy she has ever met, plays tricks on her. She deals with the strangeness she faces by writing letters, initially filled with complaints, to her older sister who stayed in Cornwall.
Hawke is fourth generation Cornish-Australian herself – her ancestors arrived from Cornwall in 1856. She includes lot of interesting historical facts when describing Kerenza’s adventures; the way bread was made, how clothes were washed and how land was cleared. There are also mentions of Welsh fairy stories.
The characters are vivid and interesting, with the exception of the children’s school teacher who was a little too contradictory for me. However, she is only a minor character. Kerenza and her troublesome family are fascinating.
For readers who enjoyed reading about Kerenza, there are other books in the new Australian series including one on Bridget who comes from Ireland, and one on Sian from Wales, which is coming out later this year. There are also teachers’ notes on Kerenza: A New Australian at the Scholastic website. Kerenza: A New Australian is suitable for children aged 8-12
reviewed by Katy Gerner
Kerenza isn’t sure about leaving her village in Cornwall and taking a ship to Australia, but she can be brave for her dad’s sake. Where he sees a farm, she and her Mam see endless bush and flies – millions of them – and hard work from dawn to dusk. It’s almost too much to bear, but the Mallee has its own beauty, and family and new-found friends might just make it her home.
About the Author
Rosanne Hawke is an award-winning South Australian author. She has lived in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates as an aid worker for ten years. Her books include The Keeper, Soraya, the Storyteller, Mustara, Taj and the Great Camel Trek (winner of the 2012 Adelaide Festival Children’s Literature Award) and The Messenger Bird. She is a Carclew, Asialink, Varuna and May Gibbs Fellow, and a Bard of of the Gorsedh of Cornwall (Myrgh Trevelyan – Daughter of Trevelyan) since 2006. ). She teaches Creative Writing at Tabor Adelaide, and writes in an old Cornish farmhouse with underground rooms near Kapunda, South Australia.
The book can be purchased on-line.
Booktopia have it available: http://www.booktopia.com.au/kerenza-rosanne-hawke/prod9781742990606.html