Tuesday 10 November 2015

Sian: A New Australian

Sian: A New Australian by D. Luckett (Omnibus Books for Scholastic)
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-1-74299-039-2

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

It is 1910 and ten year old Sian is the youngest in a large Welsh family. The unlucky 13th child, her mother died giving birth to her and her harsh father seems to care little for her. Her older sister has always looked after her, but with Olive’s impending marriage and move from the family home, there is little escape from a miserable existence in a sunless coal mining town. That is until Olive and her new husband whisk Sian away to a new life in Australia.

From the first page, Sian’s voice was one which shone. Although life was dreary, Sian never felt sorry for herself and throughout the story, no matter what life threw at her, she remained upbeat, self possessed and independently confident. Her wonder and interest in everything surrounding her was infectious and on the journey to Australia she had so many new experiences. When stopping in Ceylon for the ship to take on more coal Sian saw an elephant.

‘I’d only ever seen them in pictures, and pictures don’t tell you how they curl up their trunks and that they set their feet down carefully, as if they don’t want to break anything.’

Fabulously written, the setting, whether in Wales, or Sydney, or Darwin, became as much a character of the story as the people. Life in Darwin in the early 20th century was particularly fascinating.

Factually based, this engaging read is a great way to connect with our history and learn about some of the experiences Australia’s early immigrants. Tying in with the Australian Curriculum this is a historical novel perfect for upper primary and lower high school students but advanced younger readers from 8 years of age would enjoy the story as well.

Hooked from the very beginning, I was swept away by Sian, her story, and the evocative writing. Sian is part of a relatively new series A New Australian and I look forward to reading more.

Also in this series: Bridget, Kerenza, Teresa, Frieda, May Tang.

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