Sweet Adversity – Sheryl Gwyther – HarperCollins Australia – Published 18 June 2018




There’s never a good time to be orphaned – or abandoned … especially when you are twelve years old, and it’s the Great Depression.

In 1928, Shakespearean actors, the McAllisters, are forced to leave their daughter Adversity at the Emu Swamp Children’s Home.

They fully intend to return, but things don’t go according to plan.

Then, to make matters worse, Scrimshaw, a villainous theatrical agent, hears the talented Addie sing. He plots to use her in his next money-making venture, but when he turns up at Emu Swamp to collect his prize, Scrimshaw finds she’s run away.

Together with Macbeth, her Shakespeare-quoting cockatiel, Addie is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

My thoughts

Sweet Adversity, set in Australia during the Great Depression of the 1930s, is an exciting middle-grade adventure, complete with a strong and brave young heroine, an awesome sidekick talking cockatiel, and thrilling baddies. It is sure to delight young readers who enjoy stories about history, acting, friendship and adventure.

Adversity McAllister knows she belongs on the stage. Acting alongside her parents and her Shakespeare-quoting cockatiel, Macbeth, is all she wants to do. But money and food is short, so her parents leave Addie at an orphanage, with plans to collect her when they can. However, the orphanage operator, Matron Maddock, plans to sell Adversity to an evil theatre agent. Addie must flee from the orphanage with Macbeth, and, with the help of many friends along the way, embark on an epic adventure to find her freedom.

Addie is a strong and delightful young character. She is not afraid to stand up for herself, her cockatiel or her friends, despite the risks she faces. Young readers are sure to delight in her colourful antics, like performing with Macbeth and escaping through the Australian bush. Addie is quick to rush into action, quick to stand up for her friends and determined to see the bad guys stopped.

Sweet Adversity is a champion for Shakespeare and theatre. Each of the chapters is titled with a Shakespearean quote and Adversity and Macbeth are endlessly quoting or performing from Shakespeare’s famous works. It is a wonderful and accessible introduction to Shakespeare for young readers who are new to his works, while the many middle-graders who are already interested in his famous plays are sure to relate to Adversity’s love for the bard.

Sweet Adversity is divided into three acts, reflecting the many references to plays, acting and theatre. There is a near-constant spread of action and adventure throughout each act, as Adversity first uncovers the secrets surrounding her life at the orphanage, then runs away, falls into the hands of her evil captor and then must plan her escape. Along with her for the journey is not only Macbeth, but a range of other children, either from the orphanage or those she meets and befriends along the way.

This adventure-filled historical title is sure to delight young readers.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Children’s fiction – Middle-grade fiction.

Genre: Historical.

Themes: Adventure, The Great Depression, orphans, orphanages, Shakespeare, theatre, acting, birds, friendship, family.

Reading age guide: Ages 9 and up.

Advisory: References to death (Adversity’s parents have died) and references and threats about killing a pet bird and other animals for eating.

Published:  18 June 2017 by HarperCollins Australia.

Format: Paperback, ebook. 336 pages.

ISBN: 9781460755105

Find it on Goodreads