The Tunnels of Tarcoola – 2013 Davitt Winner – Young Adult – by Jennifer Walsh
Author: Jennifer Walsh
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Copyright Year: 2012
Review By: Vikki Petraitis
2013 Davitt Award for Best Children’s/Young Adult Novel
Four kids accidentally stumble upon a series of tunnels down on their favourite stretch of beach. They become trapped in the tunnels by the high tide, and start moving inland. The tunnels take them to a cavern beneath the Haunted House – a derelict mansion that all the local kids are scared off. The more they investigate, the more they discover that the tunnels hold the key to a mystery that might help stop the evil modern-day developer who plans to knock down the old mansion and build apartments in its place.
Starting The Tunnels of Tarcoola is like starting a Famous Five book. But while three of the four heroes come from nice cosy homes worthy of Enid Blyton, with interested parents with delicious food on the table, the fourth, a somewhat troubled girl called Andrea, comes from a fractured family and struggles to fit in. Aside from that, and some judicious and timely uses of Googling and mobile phones, this novel is essentially and old-fashioned romp where kids explore their neighbourhood, pack a picnic in their backpacks and set off for the day on their own. The only thing missing is ginger ale and lashings of cream on scones. The Tunnels of Tarcoola is perfect for the upper primary-lower secondary school reader, mirroring the age of the four children.