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When Eleanor's family moves to a farm in the remote ""West"" (of Australia) where her grandmother (Elizabeth) grew up, her new classmates are at first as inhospitable as the searing weather and the hard ground in which her mother hopes to plant a garden. Sticking close to home, Eleanor finds a diary that Elizabeth wrote when she was 13, just a year older than Eleanor is now. There are several nicely understated parallels between the circumstances of the two girls, but the diary also serves a more dramatic function: it gives directions to Elizabeth's secret refuge--a cave that literally saves the lives of Eleanor, her brothers, and a new friend when she is able to find it during a sudden bushfire. Gleeson (I Am Susannah, 1989) again creates believable characters and writes vividly of a way of life unfamiliar to most American readers. The sequence when the four young people escape the fire makes a thrilling survival story; and Eleanor's acceptance, as the heroine who saved the others, is realistically tempered by the continuing existence of an unimaginative teacher and a class tease. At the end, Eleanor's mother's gift--a new diary--is both touching and a nice symbol of continuity. A satisfying, multileveled story.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1990
Page count: 129pp
Publisher: Holiday House