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Playing Beatie Bow (1980)

by Ruth Park

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6111432,474 (3.97)44
A lonely Australian girl from a divided family is transported back to the 1880's and an immigrant family from the Orkney Islands.

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
An Australian YA book from the 80's, this was a RL book club read. Though not science-fiction so much as historical time-travel, the book feels akin to the Australian equivalent of A Wrinkle in Time.

Abigail is an unhappy 14 year old, bitter and bratty after her parents' separation. She spends time with her next-door neighbour, Justine, helping her out by taking Justine's two kids to the playground, where the youngest, Natalie, likes to watch the other kids play a game called 'Beatie Bow'; a cross between Bloody Mary and tag. Natalie and Abigail notice another child that only watches, the 'furry girl' that stands in the shadows. One day, Abigail sees the girl and approaches her, then gives chase as the girl runs away. As she runs down the street, she suddenly finds herself in 1873, stuck there until she helps the furry girl, who turns out to be Beatie Bow, and her family figure out how to save the family 'Gift'.

More than a few of my friends here consider this a beloved classic, so imagine my chagrin when I showed up to book club and had to admit I didn't like it. Fortunately, I wasn't alone. The book has a lot going for it: the writing is beautiful, the setting evocative; Park puts you in Sydney in 1873, and let me tell you, it's filthy. Park won the Australian Book of the Year Award in 1981 and it was well deserved.

But...I don't like time travel books, I'm not a fan of the dark edge so prevalent in even Australian YA, and most unfortunate of all, I didn't like a single character in this book. Abigail was a spoiled, whiney, brat; Beattie Bow was too ornery to be considered charming and the rest didn't get enough page time to be anything other that friendly shadows. Abigail's first love was just too trite; I couldn't buy it, it was all too neat and pat (although to be fair, I might have totally bought it when I was 12).

The book is a worthy read, I just wasn't the right audience for it. ( )
1 vote murderbydeath | Jan 27, 2022 |
SO GOOD!! ( )
1 vote angelgay | Jul 1, 2020 |
I loved this book almost as much as the previous Ruth Park I read (Pink Flannel). Playing Beatie Bow works on several levels. First, it offers great entertainment just for the plot: Abigail, 14, a contemporary Sydney resident, travels in time back to 1873. There she becomes entwined in the life of a family from the Orkney Islands. Second, it is a coming-of-age novel that adults can enjoy as much as the target juvenile/YA audience. Abigail grows both physically and emotionally over the course of the story. Third, Abigail's thoughtful reflections on the differences in past and contemporary Sydney, both socially and physically, are fascinating. ( )
1 vote NinieB | Dec 5, 2019 |
A lonely Australian girl from a divided family is transported back to the 1880's and an immigrant family from the Orkney Islands.
1 vote unsoluble | Feb 1, 2018 |
Another book I have been meaning to read for ages but only just got around to, this story is considered an Australian children's classic.
14 year old Abigail is angry about her father's affair 4 years ago and now angry at her mother for considering getting back together with him. Set in 1980's Sydney Abigail is draw back in time (by a combination of circumstances some of which are only revealed at the end of the book) to the far harsher Sydney of the 1870's. Taken in by the Bow family, all of whom are convinced that Abigail shouldn't be allowed back until she has done the thing (Granny is convinced she has come for a reason) she needs to do. In the time she is there Abigail starts to reassess her view of her parents and the decisions they have made. And also appreciate the time she lives in.
A great read to learn about history but also good for any kid who is struggling with divorced parents and help to see things in a different light.
Recommended for 12 .
( )
1 vote SashaM | Apr 20, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ruth Parkprimary authorall editionscalculated
Taylor, GeoffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the first place, Abigail Kirk was not Abigail at all.
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A lonely Australian girl from a divided family is transported back to the 1880's and an immigrant family from the Orkney Islands.

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Disturbed that her mother could welcome back her unfaithful father, Abigail Kirk undergoes a mysterious voyage to nineteenth-century Australia, where her experiences help her to understand the power of love and to accept her father.
Children's Book Council of Australia Awards - Book of the Year : Older readers ; winner 1981.
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Average: (3.97)
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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140314601, 0143204874, 0670076864


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