The Ballad of Melodie Rose is the second book in Kate Gordon’s Direleafe Hall
series for middle-grade girls. As with The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn, the first book in this series, Gordon has once again produced a lyrical and startlingly original novel about being kind, being human and understanding one’s place in the cosmos.
A sense of loss pervades the Direleafe Hall series. Melodie Rose and Wonder Quinn both long for their missing mothers and struggle to understand the reasons for their abandonment – and yet Gordon’s kindly wisdom shines like a beacon through the bleakness of the girls’ losses.
Melodie and Wonder are ghosts, and not-ghosts, who feel the need to be ‘seen’. They must also learn strategies for resolving conflict. But Gordon’s novels are more than fictive survival handbooks for sensitive children. Her novels sparkle with gems of homespun wisdom about how children can, and should, stand up for themselves, and all they hold dear.
The Direleafe Hall books also nudge their readers to look upwards and ponder the existential mysteries and beauties of our universe, and to take comfort in the notion that we are all made of star dust. As cosmologist and writer, Carl Sagan, put it in the early 1980s, “We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.”
Wonder has departed Direleafe Hall by the time Melodie arrives, but her memory lingers. Ms Gallow, the grim Principal of Wonder’s school years is Melodie’s caring grandmother. Direleafe Hall becomes so precious to Melodie that when the school is bought by the enigmatic White Lady, and scheduled for demolition, Melodie sets out to rescue it. To succeed, Melodie must find out who the mysterious White Lady is, and why she wants the Hall demolished.
I chuckled over the scene where Melodie invites three ghost girls to a sleepover in her room, so they can plot their campaign to save Direleafe Hall. Melodie invites Lucy to sleep in her bed, but Lucy declines, preferring to sleep on the floor because that makes her feel alive – she can almost feel the hardness of the floor, pressing on her bones. Florence, the scientifically-minded ghost girl, then points out, that Lucy has phantom limb syndrome. ‘Only your entire body is phantom.’
Tasmanians can be justifiably proud of our long tradition of creating quality children’s books, which dates from Nan Chauncy’s They Found a Cave, in 1947. Since then, Ron Brooks, Peter Gouldthorpe, Coral Tulloch, Sally Odgers, Lian Tanner, Julie Hunt, Christina Booth, and many other Tasmanian creators have made their mark on the Australia’s children’s literature. Kate Gordon, is a standout in a flourishing crop of younger Tasmanian children’s and young adult book creators, who are now achieving national and international recognition.
Kate Gordon’s website is https://kategordon.com.au/