Sunday 7 February 2016

Olivia's First Term: Stage School

Olivia's First Term: Stage School by Lyn Gardner (Nosy Crow)
PB RRP $16.95

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

There are other books in this series about Olivia, daughter of Jack and sister to Eel, whose family has a circus background. Olivia is skilled in tightrope walking, which is her passion. Thus she is sorely disappointed when Jack takes her and Eel to enrol in a stage school. The school is run by the girls' maternal grandmother, Alicia Swan, who has previously cut all ties from her daughter and son-in-law. Now Olivia's mother is dead and Jack is desperate for his girls to have a home. Alicia accepts the girls into the school and Jack departs. The story then proceeds, telling of life for Olivia and Alice in Swan's Stage School.

This is an odd book insofar as the narrative viewpoint shifts constantly throughout the story. It's almost as much poor, talented Georgia's story, spoilt, rich, bitchy Katie's story and enthusiastic, gifted dancer Eel's story. Their stories, and the stories of other students such as the school captain Aeysha and Olivia's friend Tom are played out throughout the book.

As I read Olivia's First Term, I had a sense of reading a book by Enid Blyton. The story's characters are all 'types' with jealousies, infighting and occasional kindnesses depicted from the numerous students of the school. Olivia struggles to fit in as she has no stage talents: instead she rigs up a tightrope and finds joy from walking on it in secret. Meanwhile, Eel flourishes and is chosen to dance in front of the Queen, and Jack attempts to renew a relationship with the girls' grandmother.

An average read, the book is easy to read and would most likely maintain the interest of a reader aged from eight to twelve years.

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