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Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Review: The Pearl-shell Diver

The year is 1898. Thirteen-year-old Sario and his family live on the proceeds of land and sea on a remote island in the Torres Strait. They search nearby reefs for produce hoisting woven leaf-mat sails in their dugout tree canoe to traverse familiar harvesting sites. White traders visit their island to trade cloth, flour, salt and trinkets for pearl shells and dried sea slugs. But trouble also comes with the white man.

Sario’s mother’s lungs are permanently damaged from diving too deep for too long when she was young. Sario’s sister is deaf, also as a result of diving. Worst of all, one white trader decides he will take Sario as his diving boy whether Sario wants to go or not.

This journey into Torres Strait Island life is gentle, lyrical, eye-opening. The inclusion of politics and power plays of the time are upsetting and confusing but very real. Who decides if a boy stays with his family or is taken away to work? Who protects the rights of islanders and children? Have things changed in the last 120 years?

The Pearl-shell Diver, told from Sario’s point of view, is a perfect introduction to Torres Strait Island life in the late 19th century. Readers of all ages will enjoy this tale. Some will be immersed its the action and suspense, others will be entranced by details of island living, while others will turn the pages to find out what happens to Sario, his family and friends.

Be warned. Not all white men do the right thing, not everything that happens is fair and people die.

I sincerely hope The Pearl-shell Diver is the first in a series. It opens the door to so many new points of view for this time. The Pearl-shell Diver is a definite keeper.

Title: The Pearl-Shell Diver: A story of adventure from the Torres Strait
Author: Kay Crabbe
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $16.99 RRP
Publication Date: April 2016
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760290474
For ages: 9-13+
Type: Middle Fiction

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