I am halfway thinking that the author might have included the character of Aunt Rachel in part so she could write this book. Because it is painfully obvious that Aunt Rachel is the one getting married.
So, who will she be getting hitched to?
Mr. O’Leary, the man staying with the Gibsons? Laura’s dad, who, in the last book, asked Aunt Rachel to go on a walk with him after church?* Someone who hasn’t been introduced to us yet?
Well, let’s find out.
The chapter begins with Aunt Rachel waking up Heather, and Heather wakes up much better than I do. “Yes, aunt Rachel,” is not my response when somebody tries to wake me up in the morning.
Heather got dressed and went down the stairs for breakfast.
“Good morning, Miss Gibson!”
Heather smiled. It was Mr. O’Leary. He had been staying with them all week.
All week? Hmm. Has he been getting to know Aunt Rachel, perhaps?
Mrs. Gibson sets a bowl in front of Heather, who reflects on how grateful she is to have her mom well enough to cook breakfast.
We keep getting references to how great it is that Mrs. Gibson is feeling better, because that means she can do stuff around the house. I just think it’s odd that no one is happy Mrs. Gibson is feeling better so that she can spend more time with her children, or doing things she enjoys. Mrs. Gibson is their mother, not their maid.
When Mr. O’Leary leaves, Nathan, Heather’s older brother, asks how long Mr. O’Leary is going to be staying. Apparently he sleeps in Nathan’s room because there was no place else to put the cot. Nathan isn’t fond of this arrangement because Mr. O’Leary snores.
Instead of commiserating with Nathan, Heather shoots back that she likes Mr. O’Leary because “He’s funny.”
How? When have we ever seen Mr. O’Leary be even the least bit funny? This is something that would be relatively easy to show instead of tell.
Then Aunt Rachel says that she also likes Mr. O’Leary, and I’m not sure how we’re supposed to take that.
Anyway, Rachel tells Heather that she’ll meet her after school to take some clothes to a place called Sunnyside. We’re not told precisely what Sunnyside is, but I’m guessing it’s the old timey Australian version of a Dorcas.
“The ladies there…have been treating so many sick people and helping so many needy families at Mrs. White’s home, that any help from us will mean a great deal to them.”
Heather agrees to meet her Aunt and help, and there’s a section break. Afterward, Heather and Laura are on break at school, lying on the grass outside looking at clouds.
“I don’t want to go back inside,”Heather murmured. “It is too nice out here, and besides, Ethel is making me crazy.”
Laura giggled. “She has to answer every single question, doesn’t she? No one else even has a chance.”
How does Ethel have any friends? Someone like this is less likely to be one of the most popular girls in school and more likely to be one of the most hated. Compare to Hermione Granger in Harry Potter. Because JK Rowling knows how children work, None of the other students liked Hermione, until that incident with the troll in the bathroom. That’s how a person like Ethel would be seen by her peers in reality. I have no idea how a person like that would become one of the most popular girls in school. Unless, as my working theory goes, she and May are the only other girls in the school.
Laura sympathizes Heather, saying she doesn’t like her deskmate either, but at least May is usually quiet most of the time. Mrs. Hughes rings the school bell, ending the conversation.
Mrs. Hughes stood in front of the class. “This afternoon we will begin a new section in our history class.” Mrs. Hughes lifted a brown worn book from her desk. “We’re going to study the history of Australia.”
Seriously? This is a new section? They live in Australia dammit. What have they been studying?
Ethel’s hand shot into the air. “Mrs. Hughes,” she called out, “I’ll know all the answers. I was born here.” She looked down her nose at Heather.
Yes, because being born in a country means you know everything there is to know about its history. Just ask any American.
“Well Ethel,” said Mrs. Hughes, with a strained smile. “Even though you’ve studied this before, you may still find that there is more to learn.”
Just kidding. Mrs. Hughes doesn’t say that. That’s what my bible teachers all said when I told them their class was a snooze fest because I’d heard the story of Daniel in the lion’s den 20 bajillion times.
“Yes,” Mrs. Hughes answered patiently, “I imagine you will.”
Said no teacher ever.
Now, I would have liked it better if, like American Girl, these Adventist Girl books had information sections in the back. I would rather read this particular part in an afterward, BUT at least it is in here at all, so we get to learn a little bit about the history of Australia.
“Who can tell me which European explorer first found the eastern shore of Australia?
Because only European explorers matter, kids!
I know, I know… but still.
In any case, Mrs. Hughes ignores Ethel and asks if anyone else in the class knows the answer. Any kid who has ever dealt with a schoolyard bully will be able to tell you that answering a question under these circumstances is a good way to paint a target on your chest for the bully to find after school. But, either the author is unaware of this or Laura isn’t worried about what Ethel could do to her because she tells the class that in 1770, Captain James Cook came over from England.
Then Mrs. Hughes gives us an info dump.
“Soon after Captain Cook landed, the government of England began to use Australia as a sort of prison. Our colony, New South Wales, was formed first. Many people immigrated here to the colonies for a chance at a new beginning in life. Today there are 6 colonies.”
I half expected the author to make some comparison between immigrating to start a new life and starting a new life in Christ, but that didn’t happen. I can’t decide whether or not this is fortunate.
Nathan’s friend James, who’s last name we learn is Cripps (James Cripps? That is a terrible name) tells Mrs. Hughes that his father said that Australia will be its own country soon, and that the colonies are going to unite.
Mrs. Hughes smiled. “Yes, there is a lot of talk about federation of the colonies. It still isn’t’ certain whether or not this will happen. Our colony will get to vote on it later this year.”
In case you were wondering, this is the last we ever hear about this. Which I find sloppy. In the American Girl books, if a big, important vote was coming up and the author felt it was even worth a mention, we would get to see the results of said vote and how it affected the characters.
I mean, *I* know that Australia eventually becomes its own country, but the interesting part of the American Girl books was watching history come alive. When the author brings things up only to never talk about the again, I am left feeling… let down. Disappointed.
Mrs. Hughes asks the class if anyone was already living in Australia when Captain Cook showed up. Ethel puts her hand up, but Heather answers, saying that there were aborigines living there first.
“I see you’ve studied up on your new home, as I have,” Mrs. Hughes said with a smile.
Ethel has got to be fuming by now. How are Heather and Laura not her prime targets?
Mrs. Hughes tells the class that, sadly, when Europeans came, the aborigines were mostly wiped out by smallpox.
Was it smallpox, or did the Europeans genocide all the natives? I have a nasty feeling “smallpox” is only part of the story.
James raised his hand. “Are the aborigines extinct now?”
Ethel looked as if she might burst if she had to wait a moment more to speak. “Yes. I know there are still some aborigines alive.”
When she answers “yes,” I thought she was telling James that yes, aborigines are extinct. Aborigines were not extinct in 1899, and unless I’m mistaken are still very much alive today.
Ethel continues to babble.
“My Uncle John has a sheep farm. One of his sheep shearers is named Dan, and he is an aborigine….you could as my Uncle John. he is here visiting me right now, and hes’ a pastor, so he would have to be telling the truth.”
Mrs. Hughes laughed out loud.
Even Mrs. Hughes finds the idea that Adventist pastors always tell the truth is hilarious.
I know that’s not what the text is really saying, I just found it funny.
That’s the end of our history lesson. We are told that it goes on, but we don’t get to hear about it. I can see why the author wouldn’t want the story to get bogged down, but again, it wouldn’t have to be if she put a lot of the information in the afterward section. If she put in an afterward section.
After school, Heather meets Aunt Rachel and they take a load of clothes to Sunnyside. Still don’t exactly know what Sunnyside is.
Anyway, a man come sup and offers to help them carry the clothes. He introduces himself as John Reid.
So, for those keeping track at home, here’s a list of potential husbands for Aunt Rachel:
- Laura’s dad
- Mr. O’Leary
- Pastor John Reid
Not exactly a wide field, but hey, it’s a kid’s book.
Pastor Reid tells them to wait while he tells his niece where they are going, as he is here to pick her up after school.
Heather looked surprised. It couldn’t be, she thought, This man is far too kind and much too handsome to be Ethel’s Uncle John.
But he is.
So Aunt Rachel, Pastor John, Heather and Ethel head down the path to Sunnyside.
As they walk, Heather decides to try and be nice to Ethel.
“You’re uncle is very nice,” she said, trying to be friendly.
Ethel shot her the meanest look that Heather had ever seen. “Yes,” she answered. “He is very nice. Tell your aunt to stay away from him.”
Because Ethel has figured out what it will take Heather way too long to put together: That if John and Rachel marry, then Heather and Ethel will be….. COUSINS!
*(Yes, on Planet Adventist, asking to go on a walk with someone is a sign that you are interested in dating.)