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11 Ruby Road: 1900

By Charlotte Barkla

Reviewed by Lara Cain Gray

11 Ruby Road, 1900, is the first in a new Brisbane-based historical fiction series for readers 7+. Technically beginning with a prologue in 1860, the stories will be set every 25 years, in and around the same neighbourhood, with the house itself playing a central character part.
In 1900, the McIntyre’s move from the country to South Brisbane, where they’ll be caretakers of a house and general store owned by Great Aunt Mildred. 10 year old Dorothy is quick to embrace the opportunities the house might bring, particularly the undercroft – the open space below a colonial build – that’s quite perfect for a secret writing room.
Dorothy’s ambition to become a famous writer…or perhaps a famous actress…creeps one step closer to fruition when she meets a local boy, George, who shares her passion for writing. Together they write a play and Dorothy uses her not inconsiderable skills of persuasion to rally a band of players amongst the local kids. The play begins as an autobiography, but later becomes an opportunity for the children to back Dorothy’s mum in championing the suffragist cause.
Dorothy is bright, driven and rebellious, regularly in trouble at school but only for matters of principle! As the middle child of 6 girls, she looks to her older sisters for social precedents and sees herself as a trailblazer for the little ones. Curious and willing to break tradition, she is a perfect translator for young readers of the morals, values, opportunities and limitations facing young Australians, particularly women, in this era.
Not only is Dorothy baffled to learn that a woman can never be Prime Minister, she observes racism targeted at her (Chinese Australian) friend George, and the police chasing Aboriginal people away from the aptly named Boundary Road. These details are well-researched but delivered smoothly within the children’s interactions, never feeling like a heavy-handed history lesson.
Ruby Road combines the effective narrative world-building of the Our Australian Girl series with the sibling shenanigans of Seven Little Australians. 1925 is already available for pre-order ahead of its September 2024 release. The books will be stand-alone stories with interrelated ‘Easter eggs’. How exciting!
 Walker Books Australia 2024
Charlotte Barkla 

Lara Cain Gray’s book The Grown Up’s Guide To Picture Books is being published in September this year.

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