Mrs White and the Red Deset by Josie Boyle and Maggie Prewett

Mrs White and the Red Desert is the story of some children who live in the desert. Their homework is always dirty, so they invite their teacher home to show her why and end up getting caught up in a typical red sand storm that is the source of their problem.

There are some really well written sentences in this story – the type that you re-read twice, just to feel the loveliness all over again. I particularly liked, ‘We lived in the desert in a corrugated iron house that was wavy, buckled and bent, just like our grandmother’s hair.’ It speaks metaphorically to the reader in a child-like wondering way.

Josie Wowulla Boyle’s words really come alive with Maggie Prewett’s illustrations. These crows on the roof are a very imaginative example of her work:


Anthropomorphic representation has been criticized lately in favour of realistic representation, but I must say that I have loved it since my own childhood and it has an extremely useful place, particularly when dealing with more emotional issues.

On a more serious note, I must say Mrs White, in her white dress and her underlying preference for clean, white sheets of homework kind of left me feeling awkward. Josie Boyle is an acclaimed historical storyteller and although not totally obvious, this is an historical story. I understand her perspective completely, but as an adult reader, I was left questioning the representations in the story – and perhaps this was a very clever authorial intention. I’m still wondering…..

Overall, a great book with great illustrations, some very funny moments and a story line that all children will enjoy. Children will also relate to the story on a personal level – we have all handed it messy homework !





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