Kauri are magnificent trees – tall and straight, and very, very, loggable. Many early New Zealand houses were built using kauri. This book is a fictional retelling of a girl, Laura Anne Findlay, growing up in kauri logging and milling camps. Her father works on the locomotives, or lokeys, that are used to bring the kauri down out of the hills and valles, but when he is injured, her mother becomes the main family income earner, as a camp cook. Later on, Laura becomes a camp cook herself.
It’s a hard life. Because her father has been injured, the family goes to stay with Gran for a year, and Laura is able to stay at school until she sits her proficiency exam at age 12. But after that, it’s back to the bush. But Mum and Dad and Laura have to leave the little children behind with Gran.
It was so hard saying goodbye to Meg and Pat at the station in Auckland. Even Gran had tears in her eyes as she hugged Mum and me. I’d thought she’e be gald to see the back of me! Perhaps they were tears of relief. Pat clung to Mum until Dad peeled her off gently and put her in Gran’s arms. When we got on the train, I could see that Pat had her arms tight around Gran’s neck, and Meg was wound around her leg.
The book quietly covers many of the issues of the time, such as religious hatred between Protestants and Catholics, and it ends with a short history and some photos of the kauri industry in the 1920s. Although the diary is fictional, it is based on the stories that Ruth (Mickey) Murray told to the author about her days as a girl and young woman working in the kauri bush. My elder daughter found it fascinating, and so did I.
The book is part of the My Story series from Scholastic New Zealand. Each story takes the form of a diary written by a young person living at the time of some historical event. There’s an Australian series, a UK series, a Canadian series – Dear Canada, and a US one – Dear America. I’ll be keeping an eye out for them for my girls.