The recent death of my uncle has thrown my AusReading Month schedule out the window. I had all these heavy, complex Aussie classics on my TBR pile. I was so looking forward to getting stuck into them, but my head and heart haven't been in it.
Instead I've gone for ease and comfort. After devouring and enjoying Ash Road in the first few days, I hunted through my bookshelves for more Aussie children's classics. Books I haven't read since primary school; books that are delighting me all over again and reminding me of simpler times (even as the books themselves deal with some pretty harsh tragedies!)
Hills End was Southall's first children's book written in his new style. Previously he had written boys-own adventure stories.
This book marked the beginning of a new and very successful phase for Southall. Children, on their own, facing extreme conditions, fending for themselves, overcoming obstacles, fears and crises. He uses multiple points of view and lots of internal monologue.
They're rich, satisfying, complex coming of age stories that resonate to this day because we can recognise parts of ourselves in many of the characters.
In Hills End, the disaster is a once in a lifetime flood that cuts off a small group of children from their entire town. They face down death, destruction and despair. Courage and leadership are shown to come in lots of different ways & to take different forms.
The story is frightening but heart-warming.
Southall writes true-to-life and avoids saccharine sweet endings. He gives us a believable resolution to the crisis with growth and hope, but not a happy ever after.
I can't recommend these books highly enough.
They're perfect for mature 10+ readers who like real-life stories.