Rain May and Captain Daniel by Catherine Bateson, paperback, 138 pages, published by University of Queensland Press in 2002.
When Rain’s parents separate, her mother, Maggie, decides that they will leave Melbourne and move to Clarkson, a small country town in rural Victoria. There’s not much to the town, it doesn’t even have a pizza place, and the old cottage they move into is tired and rundown. Maggie is determined to make a go of it in their ‘dream house’, even if Rain isn’t happy with the move. Then she meets Daniel, the boy next door. Rain and Daniel are about the same age, and despite their differences they become firm friends. Rain has to cope with visits to her father in Melbourne where he lives with his new girlfriend Julia, and this situation isn’t easy for her. But when she discovers that Daniel is ill, it gives her life some perspective, and the strength to make the most of what she has.
A friend lent me this book, and I enjoyed it. It is written in a somewhat unconventional way, with most of the story told from Rain’s perspective, including some fridge poems her and Maggie write to each other. The rest of the story is told in a log-book format from Captain Daniel’s perspective, as he records events in Star Trek style.
The characters are interesting, well written, and believable. Rain’s friendship with Daniel sees her stand up for him, but she still resents him sometimes. And Daniel doubts that Rain will want to be friends with him once she gets to know the ‘cool’ kids. Diana, Daniel’s mum, worries too much, and is obsessively tidy. Rain’s father and Julia work a lot and have trouble finding time for her, while Maggie has a steadfast resolution to make their new life work and goes at it with gusto. These flaws and quirks add reality to the characters and to the story.
The book itself is a fairly easy read, but I think some of the content and themes, such as divorce and dating, might be more suitable for middle to upper primary school age kids and beyond. Younger children, though they may be capable of reading the text, wouldn’t necessarily understand or appreciate the story very well.
* Rain May and Captain Daniel was the winner for the 2003 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Younger Readers category.