Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Review: Audrey of the Outback by Christine Harris

As part of my studies in writing for children through TAFE SA's Adelaide College of the Arts I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Audrey of the Outback by Christine Harris (Little Hare Books, 2009). 

Although published six years ago this Junior Novel still has so much to offer. I'm posting my review in case I can tempt you to read it yourself, or perhaps introduce Audrey to one of the little people in your life.
In Audrey of the Outback Christine Harris invites you into the warmth of Audrey’s world with a plate of freshly bakes scones and a pannikin of freshly brewed tea.  
Set in 1930 during the Great Depression somewhere near Parachilna in northern South Australia, Audrey is plucky and independent, with big questions and a bigger imagination. She’s clever, capable, remarkable and totally relatable for six to eleven year old girls from any era.
Audrey belongs in the bush and takes the hostilities that the unforgiving landscape serves up in her stride. Although her family endures much hardship through drought, isolation and physical loss, Audrey’s humour and wide-eyed approach to life helps to forge her family’s unique bond. 
Through the exploration of Audrey’s relationship with her family, her best mate Stumpy, and other well-crafted characters, Harris effortlessly blends historical facts and points of interest, lending her fictional story a certain authenticity as an account of life on the land at the time. 
We learn of the completion of The Ghan railway from Adelaide to Alice Springs, the first solo flight from New Zealand to Australia by Francis Chichester in his Gipsy Moth and Sir Donald Bradman’s then world record 452 runs not out in a test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Harris uses humour to great effect. An exploding dunny is just one fine example, but such humour uncovers the fear of loss, the anxiety, the hardship and the love that exists between the characters. Harris treads gently over tragedy, maintaining a sense of warmth and security.

Colloquialisms complement the dialogue perfectly while a glossary of 'interesting words' provides definitions of distinctly Australian slang. 
Frankly, I can’t wait to get my hands on Audrey Goes to Town and Audrey’s Big Secret, other books in the Audrey series, for the chance to take another peek inside Audrey’s world and be privy to her latest escapades. 
No doubt I’ll be tempted to read them in one sitting, over scones and tea, but this time I might introduce Audrey to my little girl. I have a feeling they could turn out to be great friends.

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