Colin Thiele Monica Dickens - Essay

Monica Dickens

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[I read "Fire in the Stone"] cover to cover with total pleasure….

What is so fascinating and rare is the picture painted by this skillful author, in the dry, dun colors of an arid landscape, of an Australia no one who has only seen Melbourne and "Sinny" and gleaming Canberra could even guess at. Inland Australia seems to have much in common with the raw new lands opening up in this country at the turn of the century. Men struggling with a harsh, intractable landscape, emotions centered desperately on greed and luck….

The writing … is perceptive, evocative, funny, lyrical. If kids—or whoever buys books for kids—can overcome the insular reverse of "Who wants to read about Australia?" it's marvelously well worthwhile.

Monica Dickens, "'Fire in the Stone'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1975 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), February 23, 1975, p. 8.

The arrival of an oil rig off the Australian coast near their village alters the life of teenager Link and his sister Tina radically [in Albatross Two, British title of Fight Against Albatross Two]. This is a detailed, well researched book, centred on two themes: how Link takes a holiday job on the rig and becomes absorbed in the complex, profitable work he sees there, and how Tina is affected by the drilling when the well blows out and her pet penguin is among the many birds harmed by the resultant oil slick.

Nowadays we try to minimise the differences between male and female in life style and interests, but differences still exist, perhaps particularly in adolescence. This author's attempt to share his book between brother and sister fragments his story, and the direct comparison makes apparent his difficulty in dealing with the girl's character, a more elusive subject than the techniques of oil drilling.

"'Albatross Two'," in The Junior Bookshelf, Vol. 39, No. 3, June, 1975, p. 344.