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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Children of the Rush by James Russell

It's 1861 and gold fever is sweeping across New Zealand. Otherwise sensible adults have been captivated by the metal and will do anything to get their hands on the precious commodity. But two children are also caught up in the rush.

Michael and Atarangi couldn't be more different, but they both share one thing: each has a remarkable and magical talent. Circumstances bring the children together in remote and inhospitable goldfields, and they must work together in a world where lawlessness, greed and cruelty reign.

This is a captivating and fast-paced novel set in Otago that middle-grade readers will be spellbound by.

We live near where the book is set, and our children were thrilled to recognise the setting immediately. Author James Russell set the scene vividly, slowly but steadily building the tension.

We were also pleasantly surprised that Kāi Tahu mita (dialect) was used in the book. Honouring the language of the land is so important. However, that brief sparkle of delight dimmed when it turned out to be just a singular instance. Its disappointing that editors didn't pick up on this gem and continue it throughout the entire story. Hopefully, subsequent books in the series remedy this.

Told in alternating chapters, the two children share their stories through first-person viewpoints. They are well-developed characters and fascinating, showing off Russell's research skills. The more minor characters were a little stereotypical but carried by a page-turning story.

This book is going to be a hit in our school library, and it would make a great read-aloud for classrooms and parents for about year 5 school children and up. Dyslexic-friendly typeface is an added bonus in this book which will appeal to a wide variety of readers.

The ending was a little too perfect for me, but I can see Russell has set us up for more adventures with Michael and Atarangi. I can't wait.

Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell

Dragon Brothers Books


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