“Sister Maxine is the tallest nun here. Taller even than Mother Superior usually is, although when Mother Superior is really angry she makes herself grow bigger and taller than anyone. That must be because she is part monster.” (p.131)”
Told through the eyes of Jack, a young boy, and the parallel narrative of Amrei his teenage cousin and prophetic hero, Zana Fraillon’s novel unveils the experience of the Forgotten Generation in Australia. When Jack is 6, he and his siblings are forcibly removed from their poor but loving family home. His mother and the aunts he live with are charged with the somewhat vague crime of immorality and are consequently deemed inappropriate caregivers. As a Ward of the State, Jack, is sent to live in a Children’s Home. Here he is deprived both physically and emotionally and subjected to unimaginable cruelty at the hands of the Nuns who are charged with his care.
Sparsely written in simple and sensitive prose, Fraillon’s confronting story may be read on a range of levels making it appealing and appropriate for use with students from year 7 upwards. Although many of the ideas in the story will require careful and sensitive navigation, especially with younger children, Fraillon’s book provides meaningful opportunities to explore the human propensity for evil. This discussion could easily lead to a focused exploration of UNICEF’s Convention on the Rights of the Child with younger students appreciating thematic comparisons with fairy tales (Cinderella or Snow White) or film (Frozen). In addition older students could pair the novel with the likes of David Peltzer’s “A Child Called ‘It’”.
“No Stars to Wish On” is a chilling tale that consistently aches; nearly succeeding to drag its reader down into a pit of futility. Fraillon’s powerful and overwhelmingly desolate story was one that left me spellbound by the promise of Amrei’s quest and the sparsely scattered fragments of joy that punctuated the narrative with moments of hope.
Reviewed by Tanya Grech Welden
**Allen and Unwin provided me with a free review copy for this book. I have otherwise not been paid for any review or endorsement of this book and my opinions reflect my own unbiased view.**