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Winner: 2001 Arts Queensland Steele Rudd Australian Short Story Award.Winner: 2001 CBC Book of the Year: Older Readers
Judith Clarke was born in Sydney and educated at the University of New South Wales and the Australian National University in Canberra. She has worked as a teacher and librarian and in adult education in Victoria and NSW. She now lives in Melbourne with her husband and has one grown-up son. Judith's novels include the award-winning Friend of My Heart and Night Train and the popular Al Capsella series. Her books have been published in the US and Europe to high acclaim.
In six concisely wrought chapters, Clarke (Night Train) spans four generations of an Australian family, elegantly encapsulating the emotions of children and youths as they are initiated into the adult world. The book opens in 1935, when 14-year-old Kenny Sinclair, his father newly buried, dejectedly sets off to find his first job. Accosted by a menacing stranger, Kenny unexpectedly recalls a poem he'd had to memorize for school: "The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold, And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold" and repeating the lines helps him maintain his calm and so save his own life. These words come to symbolize threatening situations later faced with equal resiliency by Kenny's children and grandchildren as they try to appease the disquieted spirit of an elderly aunt with memory loss, struggle to survive in a war zone, or attempt to block out angry words exchanged by parents. An especially memorable chapter, set in 1975, allows Kenny only a cameo role, as the neighbor of a refugee family scarred by their flight from war-torn Uganda. Tender, often wrenching narrative subtly guides readers to the essence of each character introduced, inviting them to share the terror, joys and epiphanies of each rite of passage. Clarke's quiet wisdom and keen understanding will touch hearts and stimulate the imagination. Ages 10-up. (June) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
'Tender, often wrenching narrative subtly guides readers to the essence of each character introduced, inviting them to share the terror, joys and epiphanies of each rite of passage. Clarke's quiet wisdom and keen understanding will touch hearts and stimulate the imagination.' Publishers Weekly, US'The emotionally intense stories explore themes about family, friendship, and intolerance through well-crafted vignettes and convincing dialogue.'Kirkus Reviews, US
Gr 10 Up-In this novel, six loosely connected short stories that may be read independently follow four Australian generations through their few ups and many downs. The first story takes place during the Great Depression, when 14-year-old Kenny's father has died and the teen drops out of school to support his family. The fifth is set in 1991, in war-stressed Israel. These events give the collection an overall historical perspective. Kenny's two daughters, who are introduced at their dying father's bedside, thread in and out of the stories. Readers meet them again as teens, and then follow them into their separate middle-aged lives. The final selection is a reflection on the present; Kenny's great-grandson is trying to fend off the emotional fallout from his parents' shouting sprees. From Kenny's hard-luck times of surviving the Depression, to his great-grandson's plugging his ears against the reality of a contemporary "happy home," this family's cycle tracks a jagged path of irony. All of these stories carry strong themes of youth facing the misfortunes of adult reality- poverty, death, emigration, divorce, senility, psychosis, war, peer cruelty. Clarke's writing is strong and competent; her subject matter is haunting and evocative, but the book is missing an overall teen voice/perspective/narrative and is not likely to appeal to a YA audience. It's a sad family recollection, tuned toward an adult ear.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.