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Children's Literature Reviews
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The bamboo flute
Garry Disher.
Publisher description
New York : Ticknor & Fields, c1992.
79 p. : ill. ; 19 cm.


"First published in Australia in 1992"--Verso t.p.
In a rural Australian community in 1932, twelve-year-old Paul has his predictable life brightened when a drifter helps him make a flute and teaches him how to play it.

Best Books:

A Few Good Books, 1993 ; Book Links; United States
Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for PreK-Grade 6, 1997 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
High Interest-Easy Reading, 1996 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States
Kirkus Book Review Stars, 1993 ; United States
Lasting Connections, 1993 ; American Library Association; United States
Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts, 1994 ; NCTE Children's Literature Assembly; United States
Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, June 1993 ; Cahners; United States

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader" "
Interest Level Middle Grade" "
Book Level 3.8" "
Accelerated Reader Points 2" "" "

Lexile, MetaMetrics, Inc.
Lexile Measure 570

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 3-5
Reading Level 4
Title Point Value 5
Lexile Measure 570


Vera (BookHive (
Paul works on his family's farm, goes to school, and dreams. He dreams of a time when his family was not poor, when there was a piano and music, and when there was not such a time as the Depression. It is 1932 in Australia and the school children are warned to watch out for the "swaggies". They are men on their way to the gold fields looking for work and food, sometimes stealing or worse. But what is Paul to do when he finds Eric the Red, a wanted burglar, who is said to have “burgled every house around”? Find out in Disher's award winning story, The Bamboo Flute . Category: Award Books; Historical; Multicultural. Grade Level: Intermediate (4th-6th grade). 1993, Ticknor & Fields. Ages 9 to 12.

Kay Weisman (Booklist, Sept. 1, 1993 (Vol. 90, No. 1))
Living in Australia in 1932, 12-year-old Paul is knee-deep in the realities of hard work, poverty, and the fear of losing the family farm. He dreams of music and of a time long ago when his father whistled and his mother's fingers rippled across the keys of their now-repossessed piano. One day Paul meets Eric the Red, a homeless drifter who steals sheep for food. Eric shows Paul his bamboo flute and teaches him how to play it. The two form a tentative friendship (Paul has been warned to stay away from strangers), and the older man helps Paul make an instrument of his own. After the townspeople drive Eric away, Paul fears his parents will be angry about the flute. When he finally plays a tune for them, they cannot help being moved and uplifted by the beauty of the music. The author's thesis--aesthetic beauty is a basic need, especially during times of extreme hardship--will not escape the notice of young audiences, and the frequent touches of local color make this a fine choice for reading aloud and for classes studying Australia. Category: Middle Readers. 1993, Ticknor & Fields, $10.95. Gr. 3-6.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1993)
In his first US publication, an Australian author draws on his family history for a beautifully written novella set in 1932. Drought is making hard times harder: Paul's parents have had to sell his mother's beloved piano; Dad's "warbling whistle, the one that coils and dips like water over stones," is rarely heard; and homeless "swaggies," perceived (with reason) as a threat, demand food on their way to check out the goldfields. At 12, Paul is an indifferent student, lost in dreams of music, for which he has a gift he's never had a chance to use. When he finds "Eric the Red" roasting a sheep near their farmhouse, he knows he should tell his dad of the theft; instead, he's drawn into wary friendship by the sweet tones of the swagman's flute. Eric shows Paul how to make himself a flute of bamboo; it gives him, for the first time, an opportunity to express himself musically. Like other swagmen, Eric moves on; but Paul's flute is the key to his awakening, as well as to new connections with parents, teacher, and classmates. Like Cynthia Rylant or Ivan Southall, Disher writes in spare, lyrical prose, capturing a mood or the nuances of his character's perceptions with wonderful subtlety. The somber legacy of WW I adds depth to the theme: Eric, the teacher, and Paul's embittered father are all veterans, each scarred in his own way; for each, Paul's new music offers a touch of hope. Brief and easily read, a powerfully realized moment in Australia's past. 1993, Ticknor & Fields, $10.95. Starred Review. © 1993 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
From its exquisite opening line (``There was once music in our lives, but I can feel it slipping away'') to the moving finale, this elegantly delineated tale never strikes a false note. Australian Disher, a newcomer to the American children's book scene, is a gifted writer, and his story of Paul, a 12-year-old dreamer, is symphonic in its composition and layering of tones. Paul has witnessed the gradual erosion of happiness in his life; the global Depression of the early 1930s has taken its toll on his family's outback farm, and his parents are stretched to the limit. An outsider at school, he longs to fit in, especially with the ``town kids who have secrets and no place for me.'' At home, his relationship with his father, a dispirited veteran of WW I, is tenuous at best. When a swagman (drifter) takes an interest in Paul and teaches him how to carve a flute from bamboo, Paul's dreams of being special, of releasing the music that vibrates within him, finally take wing. In the end, father and son find common ground, and Paul helps reawaken in his father a sensibility fractured by the war and years of economic hardship. Disher's spare, evocative, emotionally charged coming-of-age story is reminiscent in style to the work of Paul Fleischman, but his voice is wholly his own, musical and haunting. In fact, the only downside to this book is its brevity. Like a particularly savory appetizer, it simply whets the reader's appetite for more. Ages 8-11. (Sept.)


LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.D6228 Bam 1992
92039787 [Fic]
0395665957 : $10.95
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