Sunday, January 6, 2019

A Bridge to Wiseman's Cove by James Moloney

2018 marked the 40th Anniversary of A Bridge to Wiseman's Cove (I am a bit late) and reading it this week I am happy to say it has totally stood the test of time. A year ago I was helping a friend in her Primary School library. We were culling the older books when I saw this one. It is a Young Adult title and so, even though it is an important and terrific book, I knew we had to move it out of her library. I bought it home to read.

Last week someone was talking about Displaced Person by Lee Harding. This book was published at about the same time and it won the CBCA Book of the Year in 1980 and I still had my old copy which I then read. Looking along my shelf I spied A Bridge to Wiseman's Cove.

I read A Bridge to Wiseman's Cove in just one sitting. Yes it it that good. In this book you will find strong characters, a wonderful setting and a powerful emotional journey.

Carl, Harley and older sister Sarah have the same mum but different dads. Sarah is often left alone looking after the younger boys when mum takes off for a week or two but this time mum is gone and so is Sarah. Carl, aged 16, and his brother Harley aged 9 are sent to live with Aunt Beryl. She is not welcoming and when people in the town learn the boys carry their mum's surname of Matt they are treated with open hostility. Carl desperately misses his mother. He does not know why everyone despises him. He has to take care of Harley and that is not easy because Harley is running wild - shoplifting and worse.

Beryl tells Carl he has to earn money to support the family. He finds work as a deck hand on a barge which travels to Wiseman's Cove. Joy and Skip, owners of the barge, have their own sadness and reasons to dislike anyone with the name Matt but they give him a chance and Carl's hard work and problem solving make a huge difference to their profits but the old wounds go deep and there are many things that still need to be resolved.

If you can find a copy of A Bridge to Wiseman's Cove it would make a great Summer read for 12+.

You can read more plot details (spoiler alert) in this Wikipedia entry.

A Bridge to Wiseman's Cove won the CBCA Book of the Year in 1997. You can listen to an audio sample here.  You might find other books by James Maloney in a school library. He has a huge range of books from Aussie Nibbles, Aussie Bites, Aussie Chomps up to other Young Adult titles. I loved his middle grade titles - Swashbuckler and The Disappearing Act.

I was pleased to read A Bridge to Wiseman's Cove was one of Megan Daley's favourite books when she was a teenager. Here is a set of very detailed teachers notes. In an interview with James Maloney he lists a few of the books that influenced him - some of these are certainly favourites of mine - Homecoming Cynthia Voigt, Missing May Cynthia Rylant and Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian. Here is a more recent cover.

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