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Saturday 6 June 2020

Review: The January Stars

Clancy lives in her own world. A middle child, she is an introverted dreamer that has inherited her Nan’s passion for the Universe. She has fears that she can’t overcome. These threaten to inhibit her further when she begins High School in the coming weeks.

She is currently preoccupied with the word entropy – everything falling apart… order collapsing into chaos, just like her with her fears.

Tash, her elder sister, gets things done. She is daring, confident and a problem-solver. Clancy’s idiosyncrasies irritate her. A space exists between them.

Uncle Mark is in trouble. Clancy’s parents leave with Bruno their youngest, for New Zealand to see if lawyer Mum, can save him from jail.

Dad arranges for Clancy and Tash to stay with his rarely seen sister, Polly.

Their whole family is scattered and rarely seen.

Polly has no experience of children. She leaves the girls alone in the townhouse to keep her planned weekend away. They decide to go and visit Pa in the aged-care facility nearby.

Since his stroke Pa is wheelchair-bound, can only say a few words and squeeze with his left hand. But he understands everything. They recall memories of Nan through his photo album.

Pa is threatened in jest with expulsion from the facility. Tash believes he is unhappy there. On impulse, she decides to take him from the facility to Rosella in an Uber taxi, to see his house (which is currently rented out).

But the house is empty and has a For Sale sign. Is Polly and perhaps her father, who is having financial problems, trying to sell the house without Pa’s consent? The trio decide to stay the night. Why Not?

Confronted by the Estate Agent next morning with threats to be reported to the police, what began as a wild idea to find Pa a new place to live, finds Clancy and Tash pushing the wheelchair on and off trains and along city streets and alley ways, to escape those looking for them. 

A time-slip leads them to a city bookshop owned by the unconventional and flamboyant Antonia, a person from Pa and Nan’s past.

But it’s along country roads (with hilarious outcomes, especially when Pa needs the toilet) that their greatest challenge lies, as they try to track down one of Pa’s children that will house and care for him.

The girls are unprepared for what follows. One thing after another goes wrong. They find Aunt Bee in an ashram. Pip, her twin is heavily pregnant and alone. Toby, not family, whom they meet along the way, turns out to be the most valuable of their encounters.

Clancy finds herself in situations where she must push through her fears. The gap that lay between the two girls, and between the remaining family members, slowly closes as they are brought together under unpredictable circumstances.

All the while, Clancy is guided by Nan’s presence, her stars, and her sweet smell of lily-of-the -valley.

Full of adventure and humour, Kate Constable has gifted us another well-crafted, novel with a strong storyline and unique characters.

Title: The January Stars
Author: Kate Constable
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $16.99
Publication Date: March 2020
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760525026
For ages: 12+
Type: Middle Grade Fiction