Rebecca Kelly is ten years old, and lives with her mother at the Delly workhouse in Ireland. When her mother dies, Becky faces a lifetime of poverty and hard work at the workhouse. In desperation, she gathers her belongings and steals a pony to ride to the Belfast port. She plans to join her brother who is a sailor on a ship called the Queen of Nations, bound for New Zealand.
Soon Becky is reunited with her brother, and they are sailing towards their new home and new life. Becky becomes the reluctant maid and companion of the Walker family, caring for the children and helping with the chores. It’s a hard life being a servant on the Queen of Nations – and it is a dangerous world aboard the ship. Will all of the immigrants make it to their new home safely?
Rebecca and the Queen of Nations is the first book in the new ‘New Zealand Girl’ series. This novel is a promising start to the series, which will cover a range of historical periods, revisited through the eyes of young girls. These books are sure to be very popular with children, especially girls aged 7 to 12. Books like Rebecca and the Queen of Nations are an excellent way to learn about New Zealand history from the perspectives of children.
The second book in the series, Hene and the Burning Harbour, is coming out soon.
Reviewed by Tierney Reardon
Rebecca and the Queen of Nations
by Deborah Burnside
Published by Penguin NZ (Puffin)