Book: Thursday's Child

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Thursday's Child

Author: Sonya Hartnett
Publisher: Walker

Harper Flute believes that her younger brother Tin, with his uncanny ability to dig, was born to burrow. While their family struggles to survive in a bleak landscape during the Great Depression, the silent and elusive little Tin - "born on a Thursday and so fated to his wanderings" - begins to escape underground, tunneling beneath their tiny shanty. As time passes, Tin becomes a wild thing, leaving his family further and further behind.

With exquisite prose, richly drawn characters, and a touch of magical realism, Sonya Hartnett tells a breathtakingly original coming-of-age story through the clear eyes of an observant child. It’s an unsentimental portrait of a loving family faced with poverty and heartbreak, entwined with a surreal vision of the enigmatic Tin, disappearing into a mysterious labyrinth that reaches unimaginably far, yet remains hauntingly near.

Now I would like to tell you about my brother, Tin. James Augustin Barnabas Flute, he was, born on a Thursday and so fated to his wanderings...During the long, hungry years of the Great Depression, Harper Flute's family struggles to cope with life on the hot, dusty land. Her younger brother Tin seeks refuge in the contrast of an ancient subterranean world. A world that nurtures but - as disturbing events in the community reveal - can also kill. A world that is silent, yet absorbs secrets. A world that has the power to change lives for ever. Young readers will find themselves both challenged and entertained by this sophisticated, entertaining new title from an internationally acclaimed author.


Australian author Sonya Hartnett's Thursday's Child is a mysteriously hypnotic literary novel reminiscent of David Almond's dark and dreamy books. The Flute family of seven - including the lively, likeable 7-year-old girl narrator Harper - lives in an abandoned prospector's shack in rural Australia during the Great Depression on land that is "particularly exhausted or maybe simply sullen." With the trials of being undernourished, inadequately clothed, and without real prospects (not to mention a relentlessly crying new baby, a mean midwife, and two parents who seem incapable of improving the situation), there's plenty of reason for the Flute children to want to escape.

Younger brother Tin escapes his family - and his very humanity - into the earth. He is Thursday's child, "and so fated to his wanderings," which happen to be in an elaborate burrow system under the family's house from which he eventually doesn't return: "He was born to the task like a hare or one of those blind hairless moles that comes into the world itching to get its claws into the safety of the ground." The family's problems transcend the oddity of Tin's seemingly impossible existence, and so he is left, pale and wild, to his underground world.

Harper takes it all in, recounting stories of her family's heartbreak in colorful first-person narrative - whether it's about her Da's drinking and dreams, a baby tumbling into a well, or the horrors that befall her older sister at the hands of the sinister neighbor. Harper's cheerful-as-possible, child's-eye perspective and her slow demystification of the world around her form the heart of the story. Hartnett is a masterful writer and storyteller; this is a suspenseful, curiously optimistic, altogether riveting novel you'll want to read more than once. (Ages 15 and older) - Karin Snelson

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