The New Zealand Girl series consists of three books (to-date) that are set in different historical times in New Zealand. The books have the aim of helping readers see history through the eyes of a girl who, although may have lived some time ago, is “just like” the reader. It is a tricky claim to make, given that people’s personalities are largely shaped by their cultural understanding of the time they live in, but the latest in the series, Charlotte and the Golden Promise, manages to create a strong character that is highly relatable.
Set in Otago, 1865, in the middle of the gold rush period, Charlotte is struggling to come to terms with her lot in life. At eleven, and as the oldest child, she will soon have to leave school and stay at home to help her mother. Charlotte is an adventurous, determined girl however, and decides that the only way she can get what she wants is to find a way to get her family some gold from the gold fields so they will be able to afford for her to continue at school. Charlotte sets off with a friend who is going to visit the fields to see his father, and Charlotte’s adventure begins.
Charlotte and the Golden Promise is a short book, and uses relatively easy language, but manages to get across quite the story on its pages. Charlotte is a character who makes her own destiny, in a time when the odds would have been stacked against her. The book is suitable for girls aged 9 to 12 years old, who love a good adventure story, and want to learn a little about New Zealand’s history at the same time.