Assimilating history into a palatable, meaningful tale for today’s children is no easy thing. Get it wrong and you risk children shunning not only a potentially great read, but learning about periods of our past that explain the character of our future as a people and a nation. A situation of unquestionable adversity, yet adversity has many advantages – ‘sweet are the uses of adversity’ after all. Get it right, and children will embrace history with gusto and every ounce of the here and now vigour that defines childhood.
Sheryl Gwyther’s ability to immerse young readers into worlds of yesteryear with such a clear strong presence of today is exemplary. Her narrative slides along as alluringly as a sweet mountain brook, mesmerizing readers with plenty of action and emotion. Sweet Adversity is exactly the type of book my 12-year-old-self would have lapped up with unbridled zeal, especially as it acquaints children with the wondrous words of Shakespeare, some of which adult readers will connect with of course, but which provide a beautiful rich new seam of learning for tweens.
Adversity, aka Addie’s, tale centres around her desire to rid herself of the shackles of the Emu Swamp Children’s Home where her parents left her during the Great Depression. She is somewhat of a figurehead among the orphans there, notable for her feisty personality, her avant-garde performances and her Shakespeare-quoting cockatiel, Macbeth. None of this however endears her to the maleficent Matron Maddock who conspires to make the most financial gain she can from her young charges.
The adventure begins when Addie makes a mercy dash from the orphanage one cold dreary night and like many other memorable tales of the Great Depression before it, is suffused with heart and anguish that is both palpable and absorbing.
Each character (even the ridiculously evil ones) radiates a warmth and spirit as intense as Adversity’s burnished locks. Macbeth in particular exudes an ineffable charm that makes you both laugh and cry. And cry I did for this was an uplifting story of perseverance; resonating sass and staunchness in times of adversity whilst championing a slice of Australian history that made me want to drum the floorboards with acclamation. Bravo!
This middle grade read embraces strong characters and celebrates history and literature through stimulating storylines making it recommended reading for pleasure and classroom discussion.
HarperCollins July 2018
Buy it, here.