Ursula Dubosarksy is a multi-award winning novelist and one of Australia's finest writers for children. She was born in Sydney in 1961. After studying several languages at university, she taught French to primary school children. She then travelled to Israel where she spent one of her most memorable years on a kibbutz. Since 1989, Ursula has published many award-winning books including The White Guinea-Pig, The First Book of Samuel, High Hopes and Abyssinia. Her work is recognised overseas as well as in Australia: the Cambridge Guide to Children's Books in English describes her as 'one of the most original voices in Australian writing for young people'. Ursula Dubosarsky is the Australian Children's Laureate for 2020 - 2021.
Gr 5-8-This novel set in Sydney, Australia in the Cold War era interweaves actual newspaper accounts of a Russian diplomat's 1954 defection with the day-to-day affairs of a local family with three sisters and a father away on military duty much of the time. Focusing mostly on the fascinations and fancies of six-year-old Matilda, the tale follows her observations of the strange men who have guns and fast, shiny black cars staying at the big house next door. When she sees one of those men in a newsreel about the Russian who defected amidst controversy about the fate of his wife, she lets slip to their other neighbor, a crazy old man with his own gun, that spies live on the other side of her, leading to some action, which is in rather short supply here. A family drama evolves piecemeal in flashbacks to a beach picnic at which the father, continuing to be distraught in the aftermath of World War II, attempts to hang himself while his brother looks on immobile. While key characters are young people, even their dramas of pet parades and teenage nervous breakdowns are unlikely to interest American readers. Even incidents involving Matilda's imaginary companion are strangely flat and unappealing. This plot and its characters won't motivate most children to follow the slow story to its happy conclusion.-Suzanne Gordon, Peachtree Ridge High School, Suwanee, GA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
This mesmerizing novel sets the fear and joys of childhood against a particular social reality in prose that is intriguing, amusing and disconcerting to the reader. Duborsarsky is a writer who ought to be better known outside her native country. 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up
Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, Australian author Dubosarsky (Theodora's Gift) eloquently conveys the observations and memories of three sisters--the youngest, Matilda; middle-child Frances, 11; and 15-year-old Elizabeth--living in uncertain times. Growing up "in a house far away... deep in the bush," there are many things six-year-old Matilda doesn't understand: Why is her father (a merchant marine) away so much of the time? Are the mysterious men who moved into the house next door really spies? Why doesn't her older sister, who suffered a "nervous breakdown," ever want to go back to school? Answers to these and other questions quietly emerge as pieces of a complex puzzle that the author artfully fits together. The honest, poignant third-person narrative shifts among the sisters, but focuses mostly on Matilda's point of view, and reveals unsettling details about the family's history. Most specifically, the book brings to light the instability of Matilda's father, a WWII veteran, and the relationship between her mother and musician uncle. Newspaper clippings from the Sydney Morning Herald that appear intermittently between chapters give additional insight into an era characterized by suspicion, tragedy and confusion. Dubosarsky proves masterful in conjuring and connecting images. The vision of a pair of red shoes, first mentioned in a fairy tale read to Matilda by Frances (which opens the novel), gains symbolic significance as the story unfolds and family secrets come to light. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.