Friday, 27 September 2013

Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park

This weeks Friday Flashback is a modern day classic that regularly features on school reading lists and 'must-read' Australian books lists.

It won the CBCA award for older readers back in 1981.

And it was made into a movie in 1986 (see below).

Ruth Park wrote novels for adults and children. She was born in New Zealand but moved to Australia when she was 25. She married Australian author, D'Arcy Niland (who wrote The Shiralee) and had 5 children. Her youngest daughters were twins, Kilmeny and Deborah, who became well respected illustrators for children's books.

Playing Beatie Bow is set in Sydney in modern times. Abigail is facing all sorts of family upheavals and spends a lot of time wandering around her local area of the Rocks to avoid the tension at home. A bizarre meeting with a young (lost) girl called Beatie Bow causes Abigail to travel back in time to 1873.

Park provides an evocative and memorable journey around the streets and slums of colonial Sydney as Abigail tries to find her way home again.

Curiously, to the 21st century reader, it's the scenes set in 1980's Sydney that jar the most. They sound dated and almost cringe-worthy. Or maybe that's just me - since I was also an out-of-place teenager in the '80's!

Penguin Australia have now released new editions of Australian children's classics with lovely hardback covers, including Playing Beatie Bow.


  1. I really want to revisit this now you tell me it's total 80s cringe -- I presumably thought it was terrifically cool when I read it back then at school!

  2. Anonymous28/9/13

    I've never heard of this! Perhaps it's well-known in Australia but not anywhere else?? The time travel element sounds really interesting -- and since I'm a child of the 80s myself, I'd like to see how the "cringe" factor measures up! Interesting choice -- must check it out!



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