My Sister Sif – Ruth Park
Viking Kestrel, 1986
Ever since their father’s death, the Magnus girls have lived with their uptight elder sister Joanne in Sydney. Seeing how her beloved Sif is pining for their island of Rongo, fourteen-year-old Erika arranges a secret homecoming, but her plans are disrupted by the unexpected arrival of Henry Jacka – an American biologist fascinated by Rongo’s unusual sea life. Erika knows that if he finds out the truth, things will never be the same again.
This was such an odd book. Erika – or Riko, as she’s also known – is a somewhat inconsistent mixture of naïve and domineering and doesn’t grow very much as a character. Actually, most the character dynamics and pacing throughout My Sister Sif feel a little off. The depiction of Pacific Islander culture, probably quite ground-breaking when first published, is decidedly simplistic and at times a bit cringey, while the ending is so abrupt and extreme that it feels out of keeping with the rest of the book. On the other hand, Park uses traditionally fantasy creatures with brilliant originality in what is actually science fiction, and frames environmental consciousness in a unique way. The book just hasn’t aged as well as it could have.