Tuesday, January 08, 2008
STRIDE’S SUMMER By Jenni Overend
Allen and Unwin, Crow’s Nest, NSW, 2007. 163 p.
It starts with a funeral - Stride’s father’s - and pouring rain.
Stride’s father Frank, a fisherman, had died at sea, leaving behind his wife and two children, Stride and his older sister Annie, and Ferd, a sulphur-crested cockatoo which Frank had raised from a chick, during his own childhood. Now Ferd becomes Stride’s constant companion and comfort as he coaxes the bird to recover from the loss of his master. Both boy and cockatoo make a new friend, Jess, who helps them both.
But things aren’t going to stay the same forever. What about Stride’s artist mother, who never really wanted to live outside the city? What about Gramps, his grandfather, who is now alone on the farm, with no one to help him? Will Stride lose his beloved home by the sea?
Stride needs to overcome his grief and sense of loss before he can go on with life. A bushfire forces him to learn about himself.
This is a gentle, easy-to-read story with a style reminiscent of Colin Thiele's. The author lives in the mountains, but she gives a convincing picture of life in a coastal town, surrounded by bush. You can feel the storms and the sea spray, smell the eucalyptus and see the pounding surf. Australia's on-going drought is also well-drawn.
The only quibble I have with it is that it reads like a story aimed at primary school children, but it becomes clear, before the end, that Stride is a teenager - to be honest, I’d assumed he was about twelve or thirteen at most. It might have worked better if he had been.
But it’s not a major issue - children don’t mind reading about characters a little older than themselves and this is a book I would give to children in late primary school.