Kids, Caravans, and Australian summers

We’re camped on a cliff top overlooking the sea on Short Point in Merimbula. It’s a beautiful spot and the Punchmobile is camped in the shade about twenty feet from the cliff’s edge.

We stayed on an extra day in Malacoota because I was keen to put in a really big day at the desk. I’ve been pushing several chapters of a new book around for too long and wanted to make a leap forward. So Monday proved a good working day but we woke on Tuesday to mounting heat. There’s a particular scent and feel of an Australian dawn that signals a day of unbearable intensity (44 degrees in this instance). I had the drafts of the chapters printed out and on the table before seven a.m. but the prospect of trying to work on them further on a blasting hot day was daunting. Suddenly, and a little sadly, it was time to leave Mallacoota.

On the way out of town, we swung past the Mallacoota Op shop. I’d run out of novels and was craving some junior fiction, especially some novels that could conjur an Australian child’s summer holiday, particularly something set by the sea. I was going to make a list of my favourites from my growing up and post it on this blog but the only one that I could think of that has stayed with me since childhood is Hesba Brinsmead’s Pastures of the Blue Crane.

I’m sure I must have read other Australian children’s novels set by the sea when I was a kid. I can think of some great examples that I’ve read in the last few years, particularly Penni Russon’s Indigo Girls. But I wanted something from the sixties, that brought back those summers of my childhood. So I pored over the shelves at the Op Shop. Country opportunity shops are often a fantastic source of old Australian children’s fiction. I found Nan Chauncy’s 1957 classic Tiger in the Bush and two other junior novels by Australian authors that I’m looking forward to reading; The Belonging of Emmaline Harris by Nette Hilton (who is always a reliably good read – this one from 1994), and an intriguingly dated novel from 1965 called By the Sandhills of Yamboorah by Reginald Ottley. None of the three novels is set by the sea but Op Shop buyers, like beggars, can’t be too choosey. If any reader can think of a work of junior or YA fiction that conjures Australian beach summers, I’d love to have some recommendations.

I’m hoping to have a big week of writing and reading in our shady campsite here in Merimbula. School’s gone back and the caravan park is quite, with only a few kids and teenagers wandering about. (That’s the Punchmobile on the left, all set up for a week of writing).

There must be thousands of stories of summer childhoods spent in caravan parks but I’ve only read two – Michael Gow’s play Away and Libby Hathorns short junior fiction title Caravan Kids. Maybe the Mallacoota Op Shop will yield some treasure and I’ll get a new insight the stories that this and other caravan parks must hide across years of summer childhoods.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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