A Definitely Different Summer by Elizabeth Pulford
In her new book, A Definitely Different Summer, Elizabeth Pulford draws together a whole range of ideas in a neatly formed parcel that is sure to captivate and enthuse a whole range of readers. Set on the abandoned (and sometimes almost mystically enshrouded in cloud) island of Jacob’s Island - the location of a shipwreck inspired by the wreck of the Tararua, which claimed the lives of 131 people when it was wrecked off the coast of Invercargill in 1881.
Our main character is ‘Cricket’, her real name being Kathleen, a young 12 year old girl from the mainland with a strong Irish heritage. One of her parents, her mum, is writing a book and needs some quiet time to work towards its completion, her dad, a bit of an eccentric fellow, takes them all to Jacob’s island for some of his own work. Poor Cricket is not overly happy about being on this deserted island. Her protests go unnoticed by her parents who simply expect her to get over it.
Cricket is missing her friends from school, the bug gang as they call themselves - all with nicknames from the insect world - and one day on one of the rare trips to town she is less than excited to run into ‘Slug’, another girl from her school. Slug and her family are invited to the island after some sad news has an impact on their ability to enjoy their holiday. Now Cricket must put up with Slug on the island too, sharing what little resources they have.
Pulford’s literary craft is clearly outworked throughout the novel with resonate images and effective use of dialogue and the ‘voice’. The suggestion of supernatural intervention when Cricket thinks she hears a violin being played beautifully and then researching more about the wreck to learn that one of the survivors was a young man who played violin only serves to increase the intrigue.
The illustrations that are included in the story have the feeling of some of those old and traditional novels like Alice in Wonderland or something from a Dickens novel. They are a welcome addition to the text and help the story progress nicely.
Of course, Cricket and Slug learn to appreciate each other with a shared interest in the central artefact on the island, the lighthouse. The structure has a haunting, exciting quality to it. It may well be a bit mystical too.
There are some interesting periphery characters as well, the local fisherman who takes them across to the island as a pseudo caretaker - Jack - and his wife. Plus there is a whole host of animals that are bustled up and taken across to the island. The chickens may even start producing eggs one of these days.
Best for a younger teen audience but sure to impress with the upbeat message, and the speed with which the action unfolds.
Reviewer: Chris Reed