An Australian adventure for a new Adventist girl The year is 1898. Heather Gibson can hardly believe her family is moving to Australia. She wonders about this land so strange, so far from home. Will she like it? Will she make any friends? This was the time when Ellen White lived there and wrote her beautiful books on the life of Christ. Sharing books about Jesus is the job of Heather’s father. And the entire Gibson family joins in the work that will win souls for the Lord. Meet the new friends and visit the amazing places that become part of Heather’s world, in these fun-to-read stories. In addition to educating children about the Adventist heritage and hope, each episode in this four-book historical series will teach young readers about the land, history, wildlife, and people of Australia. Titles are: 1. Secrets and Friends; 2. A New Life Down Under; 3. A Wedding in Avondale; 4. Going Home.
This chapter begins, basically, with an introduction of the characters, all of whom are on board a
space ship bound for Australia.
We are first introduced to Heather Gibson, a 9 year old girl with mousy blond hair. At least, that’s what the book tells us, despite showing us a picture of a girl with reddish brown hair on the cover. Strike one, Adventist Girl, you really need consistency in your pictures.
Heather complains about being stuck on the ship, even though it’s only been 26 days. Her aunt, Rachel Nash, who has soft blue eyes, tells her they only have 4 more days to go.
Heather is from California, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s where they sailed from. In any case, 30 days on a boat doesn’t sound like a very long to me, so Heather comes across as quite whiny.
Heather and Aunt Rachel sat down in a quiet corner of the deck. The salty ocean air tickled Heather’s cheeks. She tucked her knees under her chin and hugged her legs. “I’m so glad you’re coming to Australia with us,” she said, smiling at Aunt Rachel, her mother’s youngest sister.
Aunt Rachel turned her kind face towards Heather, and a lock of blonde hair blew across her cheek in the breeze. “You know that I’ll be right here with all of you,” she said, “as long as your mother is ill.”
I read ahead and no, we don’t get to know what’s wrong with Heather’s mom. At least, not in book 1.
Aside from wincing about the “kind face” and “soft blue eyes,” this isn’t terrible. We learn here that Rachel is dedicated to helping her family and cares about them very much. Moving to another country was no small thing in 1898. I’m also going to guess that Mrs. Gibson has some kind of long term illness, else the family would have waited to travel until she was well.
Unlike American Girl books, (at least, the AG books that came out in the 2000s) this book has no pictures except the cover. So, here’s a picture I drew of Aunt Rachel based on the description:
It was my goal to be an artist as a child. What do you think, can I quit my day job? (Her eyes look purple now that I’m editing this, but I swear the paint program said it was light blue. Oh well.)
I am also putting $20 on a bet that by the end of the series Ellen White will have a message from the Lord about how to cure Mrs. Gibson.
Rachel worries about their life in Australia. She thinks the weather being the opposite of how it is in America is weird, and is afraid she won’t have any friends. All very normal things for children to worry about when they move. I moved around a lot as a child, so I get it.
Aunt Rachel reassures Heather that she’s always had lots of friends, and that of course she will make friends in Australia.
“Among all the colporteurs–the men and women who make their living selling books door to door– The General Conference has asked your father to go to Australia.”
I wonder if this is code for “your father sucked as a colporteur, so they sent him somewhere they wouldn’t have to deal with him.” Which, I am slowly learning, is pretty much the same reason Ellen White was in Australia in 1898. So, parallel intended?
Aunt Rachel smoothed her skirt as she spoke. “If your father didn’t feel God was calling him to work in Australia, surely he wouldn’t have accepted the call. I think God has a great work for all of us to do there.”
Wait, calls are something you can accept? I thought the conference just dictated, and you obeyed.
I’m not sure how this is supposed to reassure Heather. She’s worried about making friends and fitting in, and Rachel starts blathering about having a work to do and God having a plan for her father.
Heather drags out her diary and starts writing, with a pencil, about how she hopes she’ll make friends in Australia. So, question 1: children were writing in diaries with pencils in 1898? When exactly did that become a thing? I didn’t think pencils were used until… you know what, when were pencils used widely instead of pens and ink?
Someone poked her toes. She stopped writing and looked up to see her brother, Nathan, standing in front of her with his arms crossed over his short brown coat. Nathan was 12 years old.
At least we are spared descriptions like “kind faces” and “soft blue eyes.” However, we do not know what Nathan looks like. Based on the description, here is a picture of him:
I’m only assuming this family is white because of the cover. Seeing as how the artist/author can’t even match up the hair color, maybe I shouldn’t put too much stock in such things.
Anyway, Nathan wants to go explore the ship, and he can’t do so by himself because….???
Heather doesn’t really want to go exploring, so Nathan teases her and calls her an 8 year old baby. Rachel scolds him, and Heather
….stretched to her full height of exactly 4 feet 2 1/2 inches. “Besides, I am not a baby.” She glared up at Nathan. “I am practically 9 years old. And I’m not short, I’m petite.”
I’m not sure they made such a distinction in 1898, but let that pass. Why does Heather have issues with being called short? I don’t particularly care if someone calls me short (I am) though I will object to being referred to as “shorty.”
Nathan tells Heather there’s no one else to play with on the ship, so will she please play with him? They run off, with Aunt Rachel calling out for them to be careful, because it’s about to rain.
We get a few paragraphs of the children chasing each other before running smack dab into their father, who tells them to be more careful and that there’s a storm coming, so they’d better get downstairs.
I feel like I can not read a book about someone traveling by boat in the 1800s without reading about a storm. I mean, really, were they that common?
In any case, it can’t possibly have been more than 5 minutes since they left Aunt Rachel, but Mr. Gibson acts like he and Rachel have been looking for them all over the boat.
The rain fell harder now. The boat rocked up and down. Heather’s stomach flipped and flopped. “I think I’m going to be sick,” she said, clutching her stomach.
“We’re almost to the cabin,” said Aunt Rachel. “Can you make it a little bit farther?” she asked (sic.)
We do not need 2 dialog tags in this paragraph. The word “she” also needs to be capitalized. Strike 2, get your grammar/punctuation right.
Heather nodded. They rounded their corner and burst into their tiny cabin.
“Oh my,” said Mrs. Gibson, looking up and nearly dropping her book. “You almost frightened me to death.” She clasped her shawl around her shoulders.
Oooooh scary! The door just opened! And people came in! Oh no!
Despite feeling sick to her stomach, Heather goes to sleep. The storm passes without anyone getting converted (fortunately), or even too worried. Why include it, then? It literally added nothing to the story. There’s a storm. Heather falls asleep. Heather wakes up. The storm is gone. Yawn.
Heather wakes up just in time for family worship! What excellent timing! Poor Heather.
Heather sat up cross legged and wrapped her blanket around her legs. Nathan slid off his bunk and plunked himself down next to Heather.
“Please hand me my bible, Rachel.” Mr. Gibson asked.
“Certainly,” said Aunt Rachel, handing Father his tattered and well loved leather bible from the shelf. She slid her chair besides Mrs. Gibson’s rocking chair.
Mr. Gibson sat on the edge of the bunk across from Heather and Nathan. He opened the Bible and then smiled at his family.
Riveting stuff here, folks. I really wanted to know the seating chart for family worship!
Nathan bounces his leg, making the bunk shake. Heather glares at him. He stops.
“It’s been a long trip so far,” Mr. Gibson said, “but in just 4 more days we’ll be in Australia-in Sydney Harbor.” His kind hazel eyes met Heather’s. “I know that we’re all still homesick, but I believe God has a special purpose for us all in Australia. There are so many who haven’t heard the message of Jesus’ soon return.” His whole face seemed to glow with excitement. “I can’t wait to tell them about the blessed hope.”
He can’t wait to minister to the heathens of Australia! Tell me, how long ago, in 1898, was Australia a penal colony? How many heathens does he think are in Australia anyway?
Heather smiled weakly at her father. She felt for her diary in her dress pocket. It was still there.
Hope it wasn’t raining too hard before they got you below deck.
Mr. Gibson reads some Bible passages. No, we aren’t told which ones, and I’m bloody glad because you know the author would insist on copying them all out and that would make for some seriously boring reading. Afterwards, the family kneels to pray, except Mrs. Gibson. So, Mrs. Gibson’s illness prevents her from kneeling. Yes, I did spend the entire book wondering what the fuck she has and no, I didn’t get to find out.
Heather gets back into her bunk and cries herself to sleep. She prays to Jesus and asks that he help her to be happy in Australia.
On the one hand, this chapter is kind of boring. We almost get some drama with a storm, but no one’s ever really in any danger, so, meh. We get a short intro and description of the characters, in which the author uses way too many adjectives. At least, we get a description of some of the characters. All I got out of Mr. Gibson is that he has hazel eyes. I don’t know what color hazel is, so I’m not drawing him.
On the other hand, I relate a lot to Heather. She’s moving away from all her friends (who she never talks about) to a new country. I’ve never moved countries before, but I have moved, and it is very hard for me to make friends. This being a children’s book, though, of course Heather will have friends by the end.
What other challenges will she face along the way? Well, let’s find out. Hopefully I will also find some good books that I can use to learn about Australia’s history. Some have already been recommended to me, but if you’d like to add yours, feel free. I should be able to get to a library….soon. I hope.
*The Moana is the name of their boat. Moana is Hawaiian for Ocean.