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Friday 13 August 2021

Review: The Ballad of Melodie Rose

Tales of Direleafe Hall continue with the recently released The Ballad of Melodie Rose, by Tasmanian author Kate Gordon. Anne Morgan has been lucky enough to read the latest addition and shares her thoughts on the book, the series, Kate's writing and her contribution to the growing list of Tasmanian children’s and YA writers and illustrators. Anne has published a review of the book on her website and granted permission for it to be shared on the CBCA Tasmania blog as well.  

Kate Gordon (2021). The Ballad of
Melodie Rose
. UQP.

The Ballad of Melodie Rose is the second book in Kate Gordon’s Direleafe Hall series for girls aged 7+. As with The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn, the first book in this series, Gordon has once again produced a lyrical and startlingly original novel about being kind, being human and understanding one’s place in the cosmos.

A sense of loss pervades the Direleafe Hall series. Melodie Rose and Wonder Quinn both long for their missing mothers and struggle to understand the reasons for their abandonment – and yet Gordon’s kindly wisdom shines like a beacon through the bleakness of the girls’ losses.

Melodie and Wonder are ghosts, and not-ghosts, who feel the need to be ‘seen’. They must also learn strategies for resolving conflict. But Gordon’s novels are more than fictive survival handbooks for sensitive children. Her novels sparkle with gems of homespun wisdom about how children can, and should, stand up for themselves, and all they hold dear.

The Direleafe Hall books also nudge their readers to look upwards and ponder the existential mysteries and beauties of our universe, and to take comfort in the notion that we are all made of star dust. As cosmologist and writer, Carl Sagan, put it in the early 1980s, “We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.”

Wonder has departed Direleafe Hall by the time Melodie arrives, but her memory lingers. Ms Gallow, the grim Principal of Wonder’s school years is Melodie’s caring grandmother. Direleafe Hall becomes so precious to Melodie that when the school is bought by the enigmatic White Lady, and scheduled for demolition, Melodie sets out to rescue it. To succeed, Melodie must find out who the mysterious White Lady is, and why she wants the Hall demolished.

I chuckled over the scene where Melodie invites three ghost girls to a sleepover in her room, so they can plot their campaign to save Direleafe Hall. Melodie invites Lucy to sleep in her bed, but Lucy declines, preferring to sleep on the floor because that makes her feel alive – she can almost feel the hardness of the floor, pressing on her bones. Florence, the scientifically-minded ghost girl, then points out, that Lucy has phantom limb syndrome. ‘Only your entire body is phantom.’

Tasmanians can be justifiably proud of our long tradition of creating quality children’s books, which dates from Nan Chauncy’s They Found a Cave,in 1947. Since then, Ron Brooks, Peter Gouldthorpe, Coral Tulloch, Sally Odgers, Lian Tanner, Julie Hunt, Christina Booth, and many other Tasmanian creators have made their mark on the Australia’s children’s literature. Kate Gordon, is a standout in a flourishing crop of younger Tasmanian children’s and young adult book creators, who are now achieving national and international recognition.

Discover more about Kate Gordon and her impressive list of published works on her website.

Dr Anne Morgan
W: https://annemorgan.com.au/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/morganataswa 

Editor's note: Rachel Tribout's illustrations for The Ballad of Melodie Rose are just as exquisite and whimsical as those created to depict Wonder Quinn. Rachel has written about her work on the blog - read Rachel Tribout - Drawing on the Landscape for some insights.

1 comment:

  1. More than ever we need tales of comfort and hope and a recognition of our place in the Universe. And yes, we have a growing number of quality creators who are making Tasmania their home...our special island!