The Golden Day

Written by Ursula Dubosarsky
Review by Nancy Castaldo

While the Vietnam War rages in a distant land, eleven Australian school girls deal with their own struggles of friendship and mystery in Ursula Dubosarsky’s The Golden Day.

The girls’ teacher, Miss Renshaw, brings poetry to her students’ lives on daily outings to the Garden. Miss Renshaw not only uses these outings to enhance the girls’ education, but she is also secretly involved in a relationship with mysterious Morgan, the Garden’s caretaker. On one of these outings, on a day that began with the hanging of one man and the drowning of another, Miss Renshaw disappears. The girls are left to deal with the loss and the mystery of the incident.

Dubosarsky has eloquently crafted a coming-of-age mystery novel, inspired by art and news stories in Australia. She shows the impact of this tragedy in beautiful language and carefully formed characters. The girls are inquisitive, loyal, and bewildered. As Robert Frost declares, “nothing gold can stay” – and the same is true for this golden day. The days of innocence end and the girls must face the harshness of their loss.

Although this title does offer YA themes, it is appropriate for middle grade readers as well. The protagonists are all fourth-grade school girls, younger than YA readers. The book is also shorter than most YA novels and could be almost considered a novella, which would make it a great literary read for reluctant readers, both mid-grade and YA. Readers will enjoy The Golden Day and will be eager to pick up Dubosarsky’s other titles, including The Red Shoe and The Word Snoop.