Saturday 1 October 2011

On Orchard Road

On Orchard Road by Elsbeth Edgar (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781922170291
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

On Orchard Road is a gentle story about change, friendship and understanding. Everything is changing in Jane’s life, for the worse. Her baby sister Sylvia is born prematurely and struggles for life in hospital. Dad has lost his job and the family must move from Melbourne to Castlemaine. A new town brings a new school, new kids and unwelcome dilemmas.

Jane’s first day at school is a disaster and she makes an enemy in the bully, Darren. However, she also finds friendship with Michael and when she falls off her bike and Michael must get help from Miss Harrison, a strange lady feared and tormented by the town’s children.

A friendship strikes up between Jane and Miss Harrison. Both are lonely, both are creative. Jane writes stories and the crotchety Miss Harrison paints. Miss Harrison’s house with its exotic plants, books filled with art and a lifetime’s worth of paintings is a highlight of the book and represents an almost magical escape from the realities of Jane’s world.

Edgar allows the story to unfold at a gentle pace and the reader sees the shy and uncertain Jane develop courage and confidence through her friendship with Miss Harrison. Michael is a steadfast friend and Jane discovers that all is not as it seems, not only in the life of Miss Harrison but also for the bully, Darren.

Jane’s acceptance of her baby sister comes as a result of her increasing self-confidence. She no longer sees Sylvia as a threat and there is a correlation with the two sisters both gaining strength throughout the story and by the end the family unit is a whole. This story will be particularly enjoyed by girls.

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