Ghost Boy is on the NSW Premier’s Reading List and on the Victorian Premier’s Reading Challenge list.
Ghost Boy is a timeslip novel set partly in the grisly past of the Quarantine Station in Sydney.
Froggy dreams about drowning. When his nightmare begins to come true, he is saved by the mysterious ghost boy, Tad. Froggy learns that his future lies in understanding the past, when Sydney was gripped by disease and there was death and disorder at the Quarantine Station.
Tad has something to hide, and Froggy doesn’t trust him. Cassie could help, but she doesn’t like Froggy and she doesn’t believe in ghosts either! They will have to learn to trust each other if they want to solve the secrets of the past. The final test needs all of Froggy’s courage and strength. If he can find what has been lost for more than a hundred years, maybe he and Tad can both be set free.
Extract: ‘His fear of the water began when they came to live at this place. Froggy couldn’t explain it. It was like a dark cloud that shadowed his day and crept into his dreams at night. Fear of the ocean. Drowning. He could feel the salt water seeping through his eyes, his ears, his nose, washing out his skull, dragging his body down into the darkness.
While researching and writing Ghost Boy, I read the Royal Commission into the Quarantine Station in Sydney, which was called to examine the awful conditions there during the smallpox epidemic in 1881. It was a great source of information for my story. Belinda Elliott and, later, Brian Macdonald, both guides at the QS at the time of writing, kindly spent time taking me around the site and telling me stories of bygone days, both historical and ghostly, some of which found their way into this novel! I took lots of photos and studied old plans so that I could picture what the Quarantine Station might have looked like late in the 19th century. While I describe real events from that time, the characters in the novel are fictional.
I am indebted to Brian Macdonald, whose love and enthusiasm prompted him to devise the first Ghost Boy tour up at the QS for schools studying the novel. This popular tour is still available for students (primary and lower secondary) who are reading the novel in school, and it’s a great way to bring the novel and its characters ‘to life’ as well as immersing students in the past, giving them information about immigration and the class system plus the early treatment of disease.