The Bone Sparrow


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Zana Fraillon, The Bone Sparrow, Lothian/Hachette,  28 June 2016, 234pp., $19.99 (pbk) $11.99 (ebook), ISBN 9780734417138

Young Subhi has only ever known life in a detention centre, where he lives with his mother and older sister. He waits for his Ba (father) to come. He wishes he had memories, like the others, of what the outside world is like. He dreams of a night sea, which creeps into the camp and leaves behind treasures, gifts from his Ba. Jimmie lives on the outside in an old mining town. Things have been different since her mother passed away. Her father is absent for days at a time and she is left in the care of her older brother. Curious to find out what it is really like at the ‘centre’ Jimmie finds her way in and meets Subhi.

I found this novel intriguing – where was this taking place? Why was Subhi and his family there? How long had they been there? Why were the conditions so bad? Where did the ‘treasures’ come from? How could Jimmie get into the compound? Why can’t Jimmie read? What do the stories mean? Could this really happen? I was totally immersed in the story and connected with Subhi. The authentic voice and vivid imagery kept me on the edge of my seat. I loved the strong thread of the power of ‘story’ which was explored through the main characters. Having known nothing else, Subhi’s naivety and hopefulness contrast against the growing restlessness and impending chaos brewing in the camp. This text is thought provoking with themes of freedom, courage and the invincibility of the human spirit. The author’s note at the end gives background to the motivations behind the story which are well worth exploring further. Recommended for mature Year 4 readers and above.

Reviewed by Sharon Seymour

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