Thursday 29 September 2011

Rain May and Captain Daniel

I wish I'd found this book another way. I'd never heard of Rain May and Captain Daniel until last week when I was blogging and thinking about The Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley. A book that I loved.  I came to realise that Cedar B. Hartley was only shortlisted for the 2003 Younger Readers Book of the Year Children's Book Council of Australia Awards. Shortlisted. It didn't win. That meant that the judges thought another book was better than the delightful Cedar! Rain May and Captain Daniel was that book. Winner of the Younger Readers Book of the Year 2003. But I'd never heard of it. Or the author. Why not? I don't know.

Rain May and Captain Daniel is a fine book. An excellent book even. But the whole time I read it, I was wondering, why, why did this beat Cedar? That's an unfair way to approach a book I suspect. Still if I'd been a judge of the CBCA Awards in 2003 would I have voted for Rain May or Cedar to win? I don't know. Thankfully, noone has ever asked me to be a judge.

Catherine Bateson is a rather prolific and lauded Australian author. Turns out she has won the Book of the Year Younger Reader, not once, but twice in the past 9 years, and made the short list many other times! That's pretty good going. It seems she rose to prominence in the poetry world and has written several verse novels. This in part explains my lack of knowledge- I really am a complete nincompoop as regards poetry.

Rain May is the story of a girl called Rain. Her parents have recently separated and she is forced to move with her mother from their inner city Melbourne life to a small town in the country. They move into her grandmothers old house, which has been rented out since Rain's grandmother died 4 years earlier. Twelve year old Rain is less than thrilled by the move, and by her parents separation. She meets and befriends Captain Daniel, the boy who lives next door to Granny's, who is just a tad obsessed with Star Trek.

The book is told in the alternate voices of Rain May and Captain Daniel. I've always enjoyed multiple narrators, and this book does it really well. Rain writes in a simple narrative style. Captain Daniel writes The Captains Log. Stardate included. It's very funny. I suspect Catherine Bateson, or her kids, has watched a bit of Star Trek.

Her name's Rain, not after the astronomer in Future's End, Star Trek, Voyager, Season 3, but after a poem. She's heavily into poetry. She writes fridge poetry. I don't know anyone who writes poetry. They tried to make us do it at school but the Klingons wrote obscene limericks instead. 
Captain Daniel is a bit of a dweeb. He's very bright, and into chess and Star Trek. Not terribly popular pursuits in small town rural Australia. Daniel is a lonely kid, and picked on at school. Rain likes him though, and they go exploring the local area, trying to find platypus in the river.

Rain is indeed named after an e e cummings poem, and she and her mother do write fridge poetry to each other with one of those packs of fridge magnets with words. She makes the pithy and oh so true comments common of the serious book for younger readers.

It beats me why kids who are liked by adults are always the ones not liked at school. 

I think Rain May and Captain Daniel, is perhaps a more earnest book than Cedar B. Hartley. Maybe that's why it won. They're both very good, and both deal with big topics. Both girls have absent fathers- Cedar's has died, Rain's has left and is living with his new girlfriend.  Cedar possiby has a lighter touch, although both are full of memorable characters and they have introduced me to two amazing new Aussie authors. Now I want to read more of Catherine Bateson, and yes my TBR just got even bigger....

1 comment:

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

Fabulous review... I studied eec and immediately caught the reference. Love the comment about "kids who are liked by adults" and think that is quite true, but a puzzle.

Here is a book (French author) and I have bought about 10 copies for friends. It is loved by adults and children both. ABC 3d by Marion Bataille. You will be amazed and I hope you do not mind me cluttering your comments with this but I did not know how to reach you through email.

Thanks for all your reviews, mon amie.