Across the Creek

by: Rosanne Hawke

148 pages
129mm x 198mm
ISBN: 9781532637971

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SKU: 9781532637971 Category:


Winner of the Cornish Holyer an Gof Award for Children’s Literature

Children in Aidan’s town have mysteriously disappeared for years. When his friend Jenice disappears, Aidan goes in search of her. He crosses a forbidden creek, and with the help of a piskey named Raff, ventures into an abandoned mine. Here he discovers a strange world populated by mythical creatures who came to Australia with the first Cornish miners over 160 years earlier. Has he uncovered the secret of the missing children? And can he and Jenice escape the horrible spriggans and their fearsome dragaroo, or will they be trapped in the mines forever?

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About the author

Rosanne Hawke is an award winning children’s author who lives in Kapunda, South Australia. She has written over twenty-five books for young people including Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll (a CBCA Notable Book), Wolfchild, (shortlisted for the 2004 Aurealis Awards) and Taj and the Great Camel Trek (2012 Adelaide Festival Children’s Book Award). She is the recipient of the 2015 Nance Donkin Award. Rosanne is an adjunct lecturer in Creative Writing at Tabor Adelaide and is a Bard of Cornwall.

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Aidan knew he shouldn’t wander alone near the abandoned mine, especially not to the creek where Jenice Trengove disappeared last year. It was as if the water was calling him, ‘Ai-dan. Ai-dan.’ It sounded like hundreds of tiny voices singing without words, slow as in a dream. And just as in a dream (though Aidan was sure it wasn’t) he climbed down the bank, past the ‘Keep Out’ sign and through the barbed wire to the water. That was where he hesitated – his moment of should I or shouldn’t I? He felt a quiver in his belly as if an insect with lots of legs was uncurling in there. Did Jenice do this last year? Ever since she disappeared, the mine and the creek had been fenced off. There were danger signs on the other side. He twisted to glance behind him but the voices called louder, like a musical waterfall. ‘Ai-dan.’ It sounded as though it came from the mine.

Aidan hopped from stone to stone across the sunken creek to the low scrub on the other side. Just as his foot touched dry grass, he felt a scratch on his ankle. A creature was there, clinging onto his sneaker. ‘Get away!’ Aidan tried to shake it off. What was it anyway? It had round eyes, a wide grinning mouth and pointed ears too big for its head; weird green clothes and a little green cap like a beanie. It couldn’t be human, it was far too small.

‘Gotcha now, boy.’ The thing wrapped its skinny arms round Aidan’s leg all the tighter and laughed. ‘We’ve been waiting for you.’ Aidan was so shocked to hear it talk that he stuttered. He hadn’t done that for years.

‘W-what are you?’

‘’Tis a piskey, I am, ignorant boy. Raff be my name. We be living here in the mine, across the water.’

‘Piss-key? What a weird name.’ Aidan was still trying to shift the creature off his leg. He was surprised it didn’t answer. It suddenly let go and stood tall, as high as Aidan’s shin and listened, one little hand cupped behind its pointed ear.

‘Quickly! Something be coming. ’Tis not a safe place to be.’ And with that the piskey pulled one of Aidan’s shoelaces undone and dragged him further into the scrub, past rusted danger signs and into deeper grass. The piskey laughed but the sound had a sharp edge to it.

‘Come on. Faster, boy, faster! Don’t run like a crab.’ Aidan tried to do what he was told, but it was difficult running with a weird little thing flying just above the ground, pulling you by the shoelace. It was worse than three-legged races at school.

‘Were you always here? Across the creek?’ Aidan puffed, thinking of Jenice Trengove.

‘From Cornwall, we came. On a ship long ago.’

Aidan didn’t think he’d ever get used to the singsong way Raff spoke, and the laughing. It made him think of water falling over rocks on a sweltering day.

‘Dug up, this land were, and its first dwellers gone.’

‘Who –?’

‘Shhh! Spriggan spit!’ All of a sudden the piskey stopped flying and hovered near the ground like a huge green bee. Aidan almost stepped on top of him.

‘What’s wrong?’ Then Aidan felt a tremor beneath his feet. Either it was an earthquake, or something gigantic was slowly thumping towards them.

‘Too late. Too late! The danger is upon us.’ Raff flew up to Aidan’s shoulder. Aidan could feel him fluttering; his wings were tickling his ear.

‘What danger?’ Aidan peered between the stringy mulga bushes, and instantly he was as still as a rock. ‘W-what’s that?’ He stared at the monster advancing on them. It had a red body with huge red and white flapping wings, a tail longer than a crocodile’s. In front was a baby one almost as big as Aidan, hanging out of a pouch. The mother swayed from side to side as though it was just learning to walk. Then suddenly it paused, reared back its head and shot a tongue of flames at Aidan’s feet. He leaped aside just in time.

‘A dragaroo, ’tis.’ The piskey was shaking so much his beanie slipped off.

‘Well, do something,’ Aidan shouted. ‘Don’t just flap and flutter.’

‘I can’t,’ Raff wailed. ‘Once I’ve been seen when I didn’t want to be, I be having no magic powers.’ He wasn’t laughing now.

‘I don’t care about magic.’ Aidan picked up a stick. ‘We’re having a barbecue tonight and I want to be back for it.’

Raff moaned and flapped all the more as the dragaroo waddled closer, almost tripping over its tail as it coiled in front. It reminded Aidan of a huge digging machine he saw at a building site once.

‘Be you blind as a bat, boy? We’ll be the barbecue.’ Raff hovered uncertainly in the air above Aidan.

‘No, we won’t.’ Aidan lunged forward with his stick like Zorro in the movie. It didn’t work. The dragaroo was so close it grabbed the stick in its claws. Aidan felt himself slithering towards the open jaws of the baby dragaroo.

‘Oh boy, you be finished. So soon! And the job not done.’

Aidan let go just in time but he was too close. The mother could pick him up easily now. Its head slowly loomed down. Its nostrils snorted red goo, its eyes were huge and unblinking.

‘Run, boy!’

But Aidan couldn’t run – the dragaroo was right there. He could feel the heat coming from its mouth. Surely it could stretch out one claw and pin him to the ground? In desperation, he squeezed his eyes shut and grabbed two handfuls of dust. He threw them up at those glaring eyes as high and as hard as he could.

Bingo! The dragaroo reared up, staggered and screeched, its claws scraping at its face.

‘Good shot, boy,’ Raff shouted. ‘Now, run!’

This time the piskey flew onto Aidan’s shoulder as the boy crashed back through the scrub to the creek.

‘You will come again?’ Raff rose into the air and hung there like a tiny helicopter stalling. His mouth turned down as Aidan stepped out onto the first stone. ‘We need you. You must be coming back. Besides, you haven’t seen everything yet – not even the green lake. Nor have you tasted magic food.’

Aidan shook his head. ‘No thanks,’ and he darted off across the creek without looking behind him. At least he knew what happened to Jenice Trengove, though he doubted anyone would believe him.


  1. Reading Time (journal)

    This wonderful fantasy adventure novel tells of a young boy’s discovery of a strange land … Loosely based on an old Cornish story, the story is fast-paced, enthralling and exciting. The characters are personable and believable with lots of humorous, magical dialogue. Readers will battle with our unwilling hero as he overcomes fears and obstacles … the detailed site map gives authenticity to the tale … I thoroughly recommend this to primary school readers.

  2. N. Chaffey, School Libraries and Information Literacy

    A multicultural fantasy, this adventure incorporates characters from Cornish folklore who have arrived with miners to settle in 1840s South Australia. The narrative is underscored by a town’s grief for children who have disappeared throughout its history. An unwilling hero finds himself in the other world of a disused mine searching for a friend, discovering the secrets of the mine and strength of character. It is a well written story in which the powers of good and evil take on their traditional vestiges of light and dark, to battle for possession of the children.

  3. Olivia Stocks, age 10

    This is a fantastic story about how friendship can make you much braver. This is a good book for people who love adventure.

  4. Ann Trevenen Jenkin (School Libraries journal, Cornwall)

    [Aidan’s] journey is in the great literary tradition of the fairy story. Aidan is in a dream world, which occasionally turns into a nightmare, where the fantasy can be believed, yet it is based in reality. A child is lost, a mother grieves, the humour is down to earth, but evil is also present. All is set against the historical Australian background of the last 160 years with the coming of the Cornish to work the mines. It is a clever mix. I loved this story, well-researched, well-written and memorable.

  5. Janeen Brian, author

    … the character of the dragaroo, created by bringing together two aspects not normally connected, symbolised to me what Rosanne has done in her compelling story – and that is to take an idea from Cornish folklore – and with a little Cornish mining history – blend it straight into an identifiable modern day Australian setting … What Rosanne has done so movingly, tantalisingly and with such clear storytelling, is to provide us with some music of her own, to lure and entice us back into childhood, so we too remember the times when we crossed creeks, and wondered what would happen if … Here then is a story with the sense of the fantastic. It is a book you can’t put down and it fills that part of you that yearns to hold something within you that is more than that which can be seen, touched or felt in the everyday – it leaves you satisfied as if your soul has been nourished, like the human children felt when they ate of the sweetest fairy food.

  6. Morton Benning – author of Playing God (verified owner)

    An enjoyable and quick-paced story about a dream-like adventure, combining elements of historic Cornish folklore and the backdrop of life in a town community in country Australia. The story is rich with the mystery and fantasy of traditional fairyland. A lovely novel for younger readers.

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