Title: Where the Flag Floats
Author: D.C. Grant
Publisher: Pear Jam Books
Release Date: February 3, 2013
Acquired Via: Personal Collection
As the target of the juvenile gangs in the docklands of Sydney in 1863, Sam Galloway finds that nimble fingers and swift feet are of more use to him that the ability to read. This changes when his dying mother gives him a man’s pocket watch with an inscription on the back – an inscription he cannot read. Although the words are a mystery, his mother tells him that the watch belongs to the father he never knew. She entreats him to journey to Auckland, New Zealand and find his aunt, his father’s sister, but his mother dies before she can tell him anymore.
Escaping the clutches of the landlord leads Sam to an encounter with a navy deserter who shelters him but takes the precious watch. In order to get the watch back, Sam must take to the sea but what starts off as an amazing adventure turns into a mission to survive as the navy ship begins to sink as night approaches. To survive the turbulent seas seems impossible and when Sam slips under the water, it appears that all is lost. Can Sam, the outcast, be rescued and recover what has been taken from him, the only thing that connects him to his father’s family and reconnect with the brave heroes of the shipwreck?
Historical fiction is not usually my genre of choice, but Where The Flag Floats was a great rainy afternoon read. It is written in the form of a diary, which I found an effective method of conveying the voice of young Sam Galloway in a way that was both genuine and clear.
The story began with setting up Sam’s life and character, by sharing his daydream of being on the seas when he should be listening to his tutor. Sam goes on to watch his mother die, and then lose his house and his single, most precious belonging – a watch that belonged to a father he never met - all in one fell swoop. The thrill of the chase ensues as he is pursued by the landlord for overdue rent.
While it was a solid start, I felt the backstory in Where The Flag Floats was not necessary from page one, and starting with the action of the chase may have been a more dramatic beginning.
It is clear that Grant had done her homework. Historical facts and deep description were woven into the narrative, and did not feel intrusive to the reading experience. Her words were well-crafted and characters well-developed.
Set between Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand in the 19th century, Where The Flag Floats would be a fantastic educational resource. It provides a way for children to empathise with what life may have been like had they lived in that time and appreciate how society has changed since then.
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