Wednesday 3 August 2022

The Calling of Jackdaw Hollow

The Calling of Jackdaw Hollow by Kate Gordon (University of Queensland Press) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN: 9780702263484

Reviewed by Kellie Nissen

‘I have to be special, somehow, to make up for everything.’

Orphaned when a lightning strike kills his parents, Jackdaw Hollow is adopted and raised by the lonely headmistress of Direleafe Hall, a boarding school for girls. Jackdaw is content with his life until, at the age of twelve, he overhears a conversation that leads him to question whether he is at fault for the death of his parents.

Despite a close friendship with Angharad, the school cook, Jackdaw starts looking for more, believing his life has no purpose – that he has no calling. He is soon befriended by Florence, Nell, and Lucy, three ghosts who reside at Direleafe Hall. They guide him towards Angeline, another orphan who, they say, will help Jackdaw find his calling.

Angeline has her own troubles, however, and soon Jackdaw finds himself in above his head – unable to ‘save’ Angeline (because she does not wish to allow anyone to save her) and still without a calling of his own.  

Readers will find themselves connecting with at least one of the characters in the story whether it’s gentle Jackdaw whose ‘brain works differently, is all’, independent Angeline who cares not ‘if you use words that wrong-about as long a person knows what you mean’, wise Angharad who believes ‘the world is positively brimming with next times’ or even one of the ghost girls who only want to help but occasionally ‘go too far’.

Kate Gordon’s enchanting and lyrical language delights at every turn of the page and is beautifully complemented by Rachel Tribout’s whimsical illustrations that serve to bring the characters and scenes to life.

The Calling of Jackdaw Hollow absolutely speaks to the needs of its midgrade audience as Kate Gordon explores the world of 8 to 12-year-olds who are beginning to express their identities and trying to understand their place and purpose in life.

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