It is 1879, and life in the Biloela Industrial School is tough for eleven year old orphan, Olivia Markham. Her windswept days are filled with sewing, washing, aimless roaming, avoiding the girls from the Reformatory School, and hoping to be apprenticed by the colony.
Sydney is rapidly growing and modernising, but Olivia can only imagine what life is like byond the shores of Cockatoo Island. She dreams of freedom, friendship and above all, family. Can she ever escape? From the back cover.First things first: I picked this book up having confused Cockatoo Island with the Quarantine Station, and probably Fort Denison as well.
(Secondly, when I looked up Cockatoo Island while writing this review, the website was advertising School Holiday Activities which, after reading this book, I don't think I could cope with At All.)
Although I really liked Olivia from the beginning - her connection with Newcastle, home town of my partner, helped a lot - it took me a while to get into this book, which is sad for a book that's only 162 pages long. Once I finally did (one day when I was home sick and could read without interruptions - except from the cats) I pretty much raced through it. The problem I'm now finding with the Australian Story series is that they're too short in comparison to Our Australian Girl's four-book series: the character development is so much shallower than I want it to be.
I don't know that I have a lot to say about this one really. I guess it may be falling victim to Showing Its Research, but I didn't really mind that (even though I need to know how to avoid that failing myself). I perked up at the mention of Sydney places I know, like the Pitt St Church (one of my churches, when I lived in Sydney).
The book has certainly piqued my interest in the history of Cockatoo Island itself - but I still wouldn't be going to school holiday activities at the former site of an Industrial School and Reformatory for Wayward Girls...