Book reviews for Aussie teachers and their students.

Posts tagged ‘The Truth About Peacock Blue’

Book Review: “Daughter of Nomads: The Tales of Jahani” by Roseanne Hawke (2016), University of Queensland Press

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In all honesty, I couldn’t wait to crack the spine on this one.  When a book arrives on my doorstep with the name Roseanne Hawke attached to it, I just know that I am about to start what is guaranteed to be an amazing journey.  Daughter of Nomads didn’t fail to disappoint.  In fact, it lived up to every whisper of a promise hinted at in the rich teal cover.

Australian readers are no doubt very familiar with Hawke’s work.  I first encountered her writing as a beginning teacher working in Port Augusta when I was ‘told’ to teach her contemporary novel The Keeper to my energetic group of year 8 students.  The students were captivated and so began my first introduction to a writer whose work is as prolific as it is diverse.  More recently I had the opportunity to read and review the immensely absorbing and gut wrenching story of Aster, a Christian Pakistani girl in her book The Truth About Peacock Blue (you can find my review for that title here).  Daughter of Nomads, the first book in the series The Tales of Jahani, is also set in the world of the middle-east.  However, Hawke explores this setting as it might have been in the summer of 1662, and adds a sprinkling of magic for good measure that is certainly reminiscent of the tales of Scheherazade.

Fourteen year-old Jahani lives with her mother in the village of Sherwan. Unfortunately, the violent world of tyrants and war lords is always close, with conflict constantly simmering and threatening to shatter the peace.   One day, while shopping in the bazaar Jahani and her friend are attacked.  With the help of Azhar, Jahani escapes certain death and so begins an adventure to discover the truth about her family and her real identity.

Daughter of Nomads will engage readers from in the middle years of secondary school.  It will especially hold appeal with students that have an interest in religion and history and might be a useful text to explore middle-eastern cultures.  While I personally would not use this as a shared text within my coeducational classroom, the accessibility of the language, make it a good choice for extending students into texts that are more culturally diverse.  That said, the story has the potential to work really well with single sex female classes, providing a unique Asian perspective with historical connections that could easily complement the Year 8 HaSS National Curriculum focusing on the Mediaeval Period.

Daughter of Nomads was a captivating read that I found utterly immersive.  I can’t wait for the release of the second book in the series The Leopard Princess.

Book Review: “The Truth About Peacock Blue” by Rosanne Hawke, Allen & Unwin (2015)

9781743319949I have long been a fan of Rosanne Hawke’s gentle approach to story telling. Her latest release The Truth About Peacock Blue, does not disappoint. In fact, in this novel we see Hawke at her very best, leading readers into vividly drawn worlds in which her characters, despite being small of voice, manage to speak loudly and poignantly to her audience.

The Truth About Peacock Blue tells the story of Aster, a fourteen year old Christian girl who lives with her parents in a small village in Pakistan. Following the death of her brother, her parents decide to invest in her education only surviving child, Aster. The decision to educate a girl is an unusual one for families from rural areas in Pakistan, but is one which is is tentatively embraced by Aster, who had anticipated an early arranged marriage. As the “hope” for her family, and a girl of a minority faith, Aster must navigate her way through a minefield of challenges wrought by the largely Muslim context of her school and country. She prevails with dogged determination, until the worst happens. She is accused of blasphemy.

From the very first page this is a story which quietly aches. Aster may live a deceptively simple existence as a girl in a small village in Pakistan, yet her life is far from simple. Politically and socially, Pakistan is revealed as a beautiful, yet complex nation where life for women and those of religious minorities is rarely trouble free. Even before the issue of blasphemy appears ,this is a tale of great loss. The story begins with the loss of her brother and rape of a close friend and continues to unfold with additional stories that readers will find most harrowing. While the issues explored in this narrative are sensitive and deeply complex, Hawke succeeds in crafting a story with straight forward language that will be highly accessible to her YA audience.

I anticipate that teachers will readily find use for this novel across a range of curriculum areas with students from year 9 upwards. In the English classroom it would be suitable as a shared class text where a close analysis of the themes and broader context of the story could be fleshed out even further within the HaSS curriculum. The story would pair well, holding its own, along the likes of Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mockingbird. The Asian context and perspectives presented in the story fulfil current ACARA requirements at grade 9. Furthermore, in schools where Religious Studies is taught, the story could be a powerful segue way to a discussion on the topics of religious diversity, tolerance, and the various issues emerging within contemporary societies both at home and abroad.

The Truth About Peacock Blue, is a timely novel highlighting with immense sensitivity the reality of the turbulent times we now live in. Rosanne Hawke engages with these issues honestly, in a manner that will incite open discussion, whilst communicating a hope-filled message that uplifts and will frequently inspires positive engagement in today’s youth.
Tanya Grech Welden

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