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This issue’s cover illustration is from The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan. Thanks to David Fickling Books for their help with this January cover.
Chandra and her parents live in India, in a village beside a river. Every day she helps them work in the fields and every evening she sits contentedly listening to her mother playing her old wooden flute. One year a devastating flood engulfs the village and her parents are tragically swept away, but not before they have pushed Chandra up a tall tree for safety. Her mother hands her the flute and tells her to be strong. The poor girl is taken in by her cruel and uncaring aunt and uncle; they show no interest in her and throw away her one solace, the flute. After a harsh drought another flood delivers Chandra into the more caring hands of kind couple who lost heir own son in the flood that carried Chandra’s parents away, so the story ends happily.
This is an engrossing story, very well written in a style that evokes its setting and context and more crucially, its emotive content. The questions it may raise among young readers are relevant to real life events they may hear of in the news, so the story provides a useful stimulus for considered and sensitive discussion. A bold blue for the river and red for Chandra’s dress are the only colours added to the black and white (charcoal?) illustrations. A yellow sun symbolically only occurs on the early and last pages where Chandra’s life is happy. The unusual style of these illustrations is very well matched to this thought provoking tale.