Sunday 12 February 2017

Hating Alison Ashley

Hating Alison Ashley is an iconic Australian childrens book. Released in 1984 I've only been aware of it for the past few years I guess. Erica Yurken is in Year Six at Barringa East Primary School. She's witty and a bit of a hypochondriac. 

The sick bay was my favourite place at school. It was exciting to lie hunched up and pretend that your appendix had burst when kids stickybeaked in through the window. And also, it was the best place in the school for gaining classified information. 

Barringa East is a disadvantaged area in suburban Melbourne.  So it's a bit of a surprise when Alison Ashley shows up one day because of a change in school zoning. Alison Ashley is a bit too perfect, and she's perfectly easy to hate. 

She was wearing this soft blue skirt, and a shirt the colour of cream, with not a crease or a wrinkle nor a loose thread anywhere. Expensive-looking plaited leather sandals. Long, pale gold hair caught back with a filigree clasp, and tiny gold roses, the size of shirt buttons, in her ears. Her skin was tanned and each cheek had a deep, soft dimple. Huge navy blue eyes, the colour of ink, fringed with dark curly lashes. She was the most beautiful, graceful, elegant thing you ever saw in your life. 
So easy to hate. Then she opens her mouth.

She turned out to have a reading age of 14.6 years. She knew all the rivers of northern New South Wales in perfect order. 
Erica is used to feeling pretty superior at Barringa East, and she doesn't like the feelings that Alison Ashley stirs in her. 

My feelings of inferiority swelled into dislike, and the dislike into absolute loathing. 

All by lunchtime! Hating Alison Ashley is just as funny as when it was written more than 30 years ago. It's truly deserving of classic status. I believe that Hating Alison Ashley is still taught in Australia high schools, which is a bit of a shame, not that it shouldn't be still taught, it should. But I think it's much more suitable to kids in upper primary. 

I'm really glad to have read Hating Alison Ashley at long last. Sure, some of the references may be a little dated now, but it's really very few, and over thirty years down the track but the characters are timeless- we all went to school with Barry Hollis, the school bully, and with Alison Ashley. We might even have been Erica Yurken.

Shortlisted CBCA Book of the Year 1985

There are play and movie versions of Hating Alison Ashley- I haven't seen either. 


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know Hating Alison Ashley is taught in at least some primary schools - the Year 6 teachers at one of the schools I taught at regularly taught it :)