Children of the Rush
Children of the Rush is set in 1861 in Otago. Michael and Atarangi are both children grieving a lost parent, who first meet in Gabriel’s Gully, a gold mining settlement in Central Otago. Michael and his father are mining a claim. Atarangi and her mother work in the local hotel, which caters to miners. Michael and Atarangi both have special powers central to the plot.
Told in the first person by Atarangi and Michael in alternating chapters, they form a firm friendship and together investigate how so many miners are robbed of recently found gold.
From a historical point of view, the author documents racism towards Māori through the story of Atarangi and her mother. Michael’s story shares his struggle of being responsible for a grieving father and the family needing to relocate from Dunedin to Gabriel’s Gully, as well as how difficult mining for gold was at this time. The main characters' kindness, empathy for others and bravery shine through with the reader being able to see the story from two completely different viewpoints and perspectives.
I cannot wait to read this with my class, and delve into the local history Children of the Rush highlights for our part of Aotearoa. Common greetings and phrases in Te Reo Māori are shared between characters and it is so good to have a dyslexic friendly, larger font typeface in this novel. All that said, first and foremost this is a thrilling read that I could not put down. I am really looking forward to reading book 2 to see how these characters and the story develops. Such a great read!
Title: Children of the Rush
Author: James Russell
Illustrator: (cover) Stephen Templer
Publisher: Dragon Brothers Books Ltd
Date of publication: October 2022
Ages (age range/level the book is suitable for): Y5-8
Themes: Gold Rush, NZ History, Friendship, Grief, Crime, Adventure, Racism, Otago
Do you have any advisory warnings for this book? Racism themes may need to be unpacked with some students
Would this book work as a read aloud? Yes - great class novel for Year 5+
Is there a particular country it is set in? New Zealand
Reviewer: Angela Thompson, Literacy & Library Lead teacher, Remarkables Primary School, Central Otago
How are you recommending this book? Highly recommended
What is the book’s opening sentence: “WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT GIRL?” It takes me a second to realise that the gold miner is speaking to me.
Buy this book here.