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In Rebecca and the Queen of Nations, we journey with 10-year-old immigrant Rebecca from Derry to Auckland in 1874. Leaving her home and a dreary life of factory toil, she sets sail as a maid on a passenger ship.
She encounters many obstacles that we learn were mundane in those times: disease, overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, lack of food and nutrition. Through strength of character she survives, and we catch a glimpse of how challenging her new life would be when she finally made it to New Zealand.
We follow local girl Hene, who leaves her village for the nearby mission school at Paihia, to be indoctrinated by English missionaries. Hene's forced participation in British life in New Zealand has as its backdrop Hone Heke's attacks and the cutting down of the flagpole.
Amid smoking ruins and full musket warfare, Hene faces the threat of certain death in order to rescue her friend. This is a tale of loyalty, bravery and success, and is a great read.
- Jessie Neilson is a Dunedin reader.