Tyenna (Tye) loves to spend her summer holidays with her grandparents in the Central Highlands of Tasmania – away from busy Melbourne, her chaotic and self-centred mother Opal, and Jas, her second, and more thoughtful, Mum. This summer is particularly hot and dry lightning brings the threat of fire to the tinder dry landscape. On arrival, the local community of Merrick and her grandparents at their boarding lodge at Chancy Point are preparing against the threat of fire and Tye has to forestall her holiday plans and trips into the wild, especially her favourite pencil pine forest in the Great Western Tiers. Best friend Lily and she are busy supporting Lily’s mum in feeding the numerous native animals brought in for care, along with long-time resident at the lodge, old-timer Lance, who is increasingly forgetful. Unexpectedly, she runs into Bailey, a boy on the run and in hiding and reluctantly promises to help him and not tell others of his presence in the area.
And then fire shifts from a threat to a reality and everything changes.
Tye, a 13 year old with a strong commitment to environmental responsibility, is a memorable, likeable protagonist dealing with challenges in her family life and a moral dilemma to work through. The various threads of this story – family, friendship, responsibility, caring for the environment and living through a serious and life threatening fire and its aftermath, are woven into a realistic and contemporary tale that will engage independent readers to show how adversity can strengthen us and that resilience can help us to actively work towards a more positive future. Tyenna is recommended for 11 to 14 year old readers and is a worthy addition to the contemporary realistic genre representing the now all too familiar issues in surviving natural disasters that many of your young people are grappling with.
Tyenna is written with a strong sense of place – the wild, rugged and isolated regions of inland Tasmanian are evocatively captured along with an array of down to earth, and equally rugged characters, typical of those that live in and love the area around the Great Lakes and central Tasmania. A love of the land, and respect for the original Aboriginal owners permeates the story and includes acknowledgement of traditional land management practices with fire. Julie Hunt and Terry Whitebeach share some of their extensive research into the region, the rural fire services and the extent and tragedy of this particularly fires season in 2019 to present an accurate, though fictional, interpretation of living through a real fire event and its impact on residents, wildlife and the environment. This has been inspired by their own personal experiences with facing a fire threat and their realisation of the importance of planning for the threat of fire including preparation of your property and a clear evacuation strategy which are clearly articulated within the story. A map of Tasmanian and the region at the start and an informative annotated time line provides the real life context for this story and the events that unfold. Find out more about the setting, the pencil pine tree and events that inspired this story in this brief introduction to the book but the authors.
Tyenna is the first installment in a new series: Through My Eyes: Australian Disaster Zones that tell stories about young people showing courage and resilience in the face of danger – through conflict or disaster. Discover more Through My Eyes titles. Extensive teacher notes are available from the Allen & Unwin website I am indebted to Julie Hunt for providing me with a copy of Tyenna to read – a wonderful and engaging story that puts forward important messages in a caring and supportive way. A great read that I highly recommend.