Sophie Masson – Ned Kelly’s Secret – from boy to bushranger
Hugo and his father are travelling through Australia, on the trail of tales of the gold rush. But after they’re ambushed on the road by the notorious outlaw Harry Power, they decide to chase something wilder and far more exciting – the stories of the bushrangers. In Benalla, Hugo befriends a boy from the bush, a boy who’s brave, bold and will do anything for his clan. A boy with a dark and dangerous secret – 15-year-old Ned Kelly!
This is the second Masson book that looks at Ned Kelly and in many ways superior to her first. The characterisation and descriptions seem to be richer and the story line more exciting (and I really thought The Hunt for Ned Kelly was good). Whilst the book description states it is for 9-12 year olds I think kids a few years older would still like it. The characters have a bit more maturity about them than in The Hunt for Ned Kelly.
The reviews on Sophie Masson’s website sum it up nicely
Sophie Masson’s latest historical tale of Ned Kelly’s Secret is a remarkable blend of fact and fiction: a tale which readily transports readers to the era of our history when the legends of bushrangers were born…The authentic descriptions of both the settings and historical figures are credible and engaging, while the dilemmas of truth and loyalty are thought-provoking. The appeal of the legend blended with adventure and mystery will engage Upper Primary and Lower Secondary readers and is a must-read companion to Masson’s The Hunt for Ned Kelly. (Allison Patterson, Magpies, July 2012 issue)
The author has created a fantastic character in Hugo Mars. He is keen to help his father’s research and is encouraged by Mr Mars to make up his own mind about situations and people rather than follow others. He also longs to strike out on his own and does so occasionally, yet is reasonably cautious, not foolhardy. Masson manages to make the reader see the unfolding drama through the eyes and perspective of Hugo. The scene where he meets Harry Power and is torn between admiration and dislike is particularly powerful in this respect. The writing is evocative. In the wonderfully tense bail-up
scene, Hugo describes the kookaburra’s sound as the “long drawn-out cackle of a witch mocking our pitiful plight.” The bush, small country towns and the city of Melbourne in 1875 are well drawn and full of life. It is well researched and holds the excitement, suspense and drama of a great bushranging tale. Ned Kelly is not painted as evil, nor particularly good, and the openness of right and wrong works really well in this telling of Ned’s boyhood years. This book would suit boys or girls from the age of twelve, and I think boys in particular will connect with the brave and adventurous Hugo Mars. This is a thoroughly enjoyable, exciting and informative story about an era of Australian history. (Jenny Heslop on Ned Kelly’s Secret, Buzz Words magazine, August 16 2012)