The Golden Day

by Ursula Dubosarsky

In Sydney in 1968, a class of eleven girls goes on a field trip to the nearby gardens... read more

In Sydney in 1968, a class of eleven girls goes on a field trip to the nearby gardens with their teacher, Miss Renshaw. Every time she takes them there, she reminds them the trips are "secret." On this day, the gardener, Morgan, a friend of Miss Renshaw's, takes them down to the beach to see Aboriginal paintings in a nearby cave. But inside the cave it's eerie and dark and the girls leave in a panic. Miss Renshaw and Morgan don't come out. The girls finally return to the school without their teacher, but don't tell where they've been. One girl finally breaks the silence and it's a relief to them all. Not long after, the school holds a memorial service for Miss Renshaw, although the children have no clear understanding of what happened. Time passes and one of the girls, Cubby, becomes friends with Icara, another classmate, but it's a friendship that leaves her uncertain: Icara can be hot or cold, and Cubby eventually realizes Icara's constructed an elaborate fantasy about her absent mother. Ursula Dubosarsky's remarkable novel plays out through the gauzy curtain of memory but also the haze of uncertainty that is so much a part of childhood. Adult lives and adult decisions radically impact children, and this is shown through the extraordinary incident involving Miss Renshaw and the more ordinary yet painful drama of Icara's life: The silences that surround so many things leave children without the means to make sense or make peace. Dubosarsky uses dark and light like a painter, while her elegant narrative is punctuated by moments of humor that temporarily relieve a tension that is both understandable and inexplicable. The novel's final pages are simply astounding in a story that maintains its hold long after the cover is closed. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2014

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