In the current overwhelmingly dour landscape of Australian children’s fiction, it’s a welcome relief to pick up three books which at least claim to rely on humour for their effect. Of course, humour comes in different forms, with different purposes.
In Small Sacrifices (Penguin, $12.95 pb, 179 pp), for instance, Beverley Macdonald isn’t looking for easy laughs. By its contrast with the harrowing events which constitute the story’s climax, the humour Macdonald injects into the first two thirds of the book effectively maximises the impact of the tragedy. Central to the fun at the beginning are the members of the bizarrely extended family belonging to the narrator, fourteen-year-old Harry. We meet them as they gradually assemble for Christmas at a beachside house in the town where Harry’s artily eccentric grandmother lives.