THE BAMBOO FLUTE by Garry Disher


Age Range: 9 - 14
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 In his first US publication, an Australian author draws on his family history for a beautifully written novella set in 1932. Drought is making hard times harder: Paul's parents have had to sell his mother's beloved piano; Dad's ``warbling whistle, the one that coils and dips like water over stones,'' is rarely heard; and homeless ``swaggies,'' perceived (with reason) as a threat, demand food on their way to check out the goldfields. At 12, Paul is an indifferent student, lost in dreams of music, for which he has a gift he's never had a chance to use. When he finds ``Eric the Red'' roasting a sheep near their farmhouse, he knows he should tell his dad of the theft; instead, he's drawn into wary friendship by the sweet tones of the swagman's flute. Eric shows Paul how to make himself a flute of bamboo; it gives him, for the first time, an opportunity to express himself musically. Like other swagmen, Eric moves on; but Paul's flute is the key to his awakening, as well as to new connections with parents, teacher, and classmates. Like Cynthia Rylant or Ivan Southall, Disher writes in spare, lyrical prose, capturing a mood or the nuances of his character's perceptions with wonderful subtlety. The somber legacy of WW I adds depth to the theme: Eric, the teacher, and Paul's embittered father are all veterans, each scarred in his own way; for each, Paul's new music offers a touch of hope. Brief and easily read, a powerfully realized moment in Australia's past. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-395-66595-7
Page count: 96pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993