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The Messenger Bird cov_edited.jpg

The Messenger Bird

From the blurb: Never before has Tamar felt so alone. Her older brother has passed, her mum's away and her dad's so wrapped up in restoring their ancient farmhouse he avoids talking about the things that really matter. Even friendly new neighbour Gavin can't get through to her, despite his eager attempts. But when Tamar discovers an old handwritten sheet of music, her whole life shifts. A haunting mystery from award-winning author Rosanne Hawke. 

Published 2012

Queensland University Press, Australia

Themes: grief/adjusting after a death, Cornish folktales, Filipino folktale, rural, set in the author's own home.

Awards: Winner of the Holyer an Gof Award for Chn's & YA literature, Cornwall, 2013.

Winner of the Ann Trevenen Jenkin Cup for authorship for Chn's & YA literature, Cornwall 2013.

Selected for Big Book Club.

This book is available in other formats: Large Print, Daisy or Braille at Read How You Want. Click the Other Formats button to purchase.

What people are saying

I love the way you write.

Tiffany Cornish


I finished The Messenger Bird last night and I had to tell you how much I loved it. It's a beautiful, haunting book that will stay with me for a long time and the cover is hands-down my favourite. So proud of you!

         Vikki Wakefield


The writing in The Messenger Bird is exquisite.

         Wes Chambers


The Messenger Bird is really quite glorious. 

         Steph Bowe Find out why at Steph Bowe's Hey! Teenager of the               Yearat


I wanted to let you know that I have finished reading The Messenger Bird and I loved it! There is something special about reading a book set somewhere that you know. Also, I liked that I could relate to the rural themes, being a farm girl myself. I like it when a book not only has a good story, but also teaches you some things as well. I adored the characters (they felt so real) and found myself absorbed in their story. I have some friends who I know would love this book as well, so I will definitely be recommending it.

         Annie Koch

A wonderfully intriguing story, The Messenger Bird is by far one of the best modern novels for young adults. Exploring themes of grief and depression, which many people experience in their life time, the plot is both relevant and entertaining, and is written from many different points of view so that the reader can empathise with all the characters, and see their individual stories. I personally really enjoyed it, because the plot was so clear, and yet each character is so intricate and complex, just like in real life. I don't think it can be given anything other than five stars out of five.

          Ronja, age 15, Canberra, Australia

Hi, it's Lishan, your introducer from Voices on the Coast. I just wanted to thank you again for the books you gave me and to let you know that I absolutely loved the Messenger Bird! It was the first book that I have actually gotten properly attached to the characters in a long time. I loved that although it was more an emotional journey it still grabbed me in and I hugely adored Nathaniel! Thankyou so much for writing these lovely books!



I read your book the Messenger Bird and I loved it ! I cried at the bit when Nathaniel left and when he named his daughter Tamara. I was so touched ! I play the Piano too, and It has inspired me to play more. I have never loved a book this much! Thankyou ! :) 


Dear Rosanne, I just read your book: The Messenger bird, And I fell in love with it! This is definitely my favourite book of all time! The characters and the whole story is brilliant! There is no word existing to tell you how good this book is! The emotions in this book I really loved! I'm 15 yrs old and one day hope to be a author, your book has really changed me, and the way you wrote it was so beautiful, and emotional! Your one of my favourite authors! Please keep writing brilliant books! Looking forward to reading them!

I just want to say how fantastic I found The Messenger Bird, and am looking forward to getting into Mountain Wolf. (Also enjoyed the launch, great idea to have music to fit the story and Phil Cummings was an extra bonus for me.)

         The insights, the clever melding of Victorian times and the present, the subtle messages for young and older people, your understanding of what makes us all tick, the doctor's counselling messages...brilliant. I normally can't read fantasy and only read this because I'm giving it to a twelve-year-old, but I was hooked from the first page and definitely 'suspended my disbelief'! She'll sob buckets but won't be able to put it down. I know so many Gavins too, being ex-farmers. Your knowledge of history, agriculture, the whole box and dice...well, very well researched. You are an inspiration.
         Chris Leckonby


I could not put down "The Messenger Bird" until I had finished reading every page. Such a moving story. It's also great to be able to read about local places  close to home. I'm looking forward to reading more books by Rosanne Hawke. 

              Brittany Mickan

This new book  from Kapunda author Rosanne Hawke takes the reader on a journey of loss and grief as young high school student Tamar Binney is forced to deal with the death of her brother in a car accident...This is a really relevant topic for everyone today; it's beautifully written with a lovely musical overtone, and it's set in our neck of the woods. Well done, Rosanne

             Colleen, Raven's Parlour, Tanunda.

I really enjoyed this new Rosanne Hawke Young Adult novel. A clever weaving of old and new, with a mystery that keeps the pages turning, and a touch of romance for spice. This makes the book sound frivolous but it is far from that. Rosanne has tackled a very sensitive issue and handled it with great skill and delicacy. Scattered with interesting local history this is an excellent book for 13+
              Ann, Timeless Books, Angaston

In this well written time-slip fantasy, Tamar's grief over her brother's death has plunged her into deep depression...characterisation is strong and family relationships in the aftermath of the past and present tragedies are explored sympathetically. The historical background of the area around Kapunda in South Australia, is well researched and presented through Nathaniel's accounts of his life at the time. Celtic, Indigenous and Filipino folklore enrich the story with a spiritual dimension, while issues of non-white immigration and racial discrimination provide parallels with current concerns in Australia.
         Anne Briggs, Magpies. Magpies, May, 2012, p 40.

The appalling toll of young men killed driving on country roads was part of the inspiration for this romantic tragedy set in Kapunda. Tamar Binney is 16 when her brother dies in a single-car accident. Grief walls her in, separating her from everything she has loved - music, family, friends, horse-riding, dressmaking; puts her mother in hospital and sends her father into orgies of renovation. A piece of sheet music found behind a fireplace introduces her to Nathaniel, a young 19th century musician with his own grief to bear. The story, full of Cornish folk tales and musical metaphors, moves between the centuries as Nathaniel helps Tamar to face her sorrow and her crippling sense of responsibility for Trystan's death.
          Katharine England, The Advertiser, 5 May 2012.

The Messenger Bird is a beautifully and gently written story of grief and healing, especially focusing on the emotional impact of the traumatic loss of a young life. Tamar's relationship with her father as they try to hold their fractured family together is particularly touching.

        Susan Whelan See the full review at  Kids Book Review.

Dear Rosanne, I have just finished reading "The Messenger Bird". What a special story you have written! I loved the conversations and thoughts of the characters divided into chapters. I have never read a book set out in that way before. I really enjoyed it. It was like being a wise owl, just sitting, watching and listening to the inward struggles of each person, and patiently waiting (like God ) for them to work their way through them, regain their strength and will, and to look forward with hope again with their faith intact. I hope and pray the story will give those whose lives have been turned upside down, hope for a future and be able to reach out to God and find His peace and comfort. At the moment I am half way through "Mountain Wolf" and I am convinced you are a very brave, sensitive author!

          Ruth Graetz

The Messenger Bird  is very beautiful. One of those books you read and think 'I can't write' ;) it is so delightful. I know how long it took to get it out there and I realise many tears were shed in the process, but it is wonderfully written and just lovely. I'm very glad you persevered.
         Love Sue Jeffrey
         PS I still heard Secret Garden in my head as I read... :)

In The Messenger Bird Tamar and her parents are trapped in the terrible aftermath of her brother's tragic death.  While her mother retreats into her private grief, and Tamar's father loses himself in the restoration of their antiquated farmstead, Tamar is left to deal with suspicions she is too scared to share. The house guards its own secrets.  As Tamar begins to discover the dreams, struggles and tragedies played out by the family who lived there generations before, she finds past and present begin to lose their definition. Tamar is torn between her growing feelings for the mysterious and silent Nathanial, who understands her as no other ever could, and the intrusive Gavin who refuses to leave her alone.  Tamar's determination to hold onto Nathanial leads her into her greatest battle: to confront her secrets and bring her family back together or to risk losing herself altogether.

          The Messenger Bird weaves past, present, legend and modern reality together into an exploration of how we experience and recover from trauma.  Tapping into contemporary issues of depression and family tensions The Messenger Bird shows the power of healing that can occur through sharing our experiences and finding our inner selves.

         Janet Fletcher

         Senior English/Drama Coordinator

I wanted to write and say how lovely it was to meet you at the festival and to let you know how much I enjoyed 'The Messenger Bird.' I just finished it on the weekend and I was left in a kind of beautiful dream. I loved the story and how it unfolded so naturally and yet so surprisingly. I had not guessed that Tamar's brother, Trystan, was troubled and I was shocked to realise that his death was most likely a suicide. It made Nathaniel's presence (with the history he carried) even more powerful for me. I loved the way the story is made of different threads and how they all weave so beautifully together. And I was really moved by the ending, where Nathaniel's leaving seemed to me sad but necessary to allow Tamar to continue her life once he had allowed her to open her heart again. I'm so glad she could finally see and accept Gavin. A happy ending and a beautifully rich one full of promise and sadness and loss and hope and all the feelings and emotions that I think great endings leave you feeling steeped in.

          I know this is your latest just-released book so I'm sure you'll have lots of people responding very powerfully to the story. It's so wonderful. Congratulations.

         Sue Saliba

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