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May 2015


Millie and the Night Heron / Rain May and Captain Daniel (Catherine Bateson)


Please remember I have only "officially" been a school librarian for a little over a year, so when it comes to getting to know children's authors, I am but a babe in the woods.  In my latest endeavour to chop back some of the forest I picked up two books, completely separately, and thought "I'll read those".  Turns out those two books were Millie and the Night Heron and Rain May and Captain Daniel.  I didn't look at the author at all, and it wasn't until I started Rain May I realised they were both by Catherine Bateson. An author who lives in my area of Melbourne.  Who, for all I know, may even live up the road from me.

Anyways, turns out that any self-respecting children's librarian should immediately know of Catherine Bateson.  Well, now I do.

I have only read these two examples of her work, and let me say, there are quite a few similarities between the two.  I am not sure whether this is a blurt of randomness, or whether Bateson favours certain plot scenarios.  Either way, the stories were basically mother + daughter escaping the frantic, competitive and soul-destroying milieu of the city to start life afresh in the country.  New friends are made (after the challenge of starting a new school, of course), existing friendships are tested, new towns are explored, new bedrooms are decorated, self-discovery ensues.  I will leave the fine detail out, but you can imagine the general progression.

Don't get me wrong, both are still great tales, and each have their own flavour so to speak, but there is a bit of a negative vibe towards the Dads who stay behind in the city (and their new girlfriends).  I found this in both books, and, come to think of it, in Cicada Summer as well.  This is a bit disappointing, but then again, I reiterate that I have only read a small sample of these author's works.  Others may be different!

Both of Bateson's books have the "Short-listed" seal of approval from the Australian Children's Book Council, and indeed I would recommend them to anyone wanting a good read for those 8-12. But I would want to intersperse these books with one or two that maybe paint Dad in a bit better light, just to get a bit of balance to the reading!

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