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Chewing Gum in Holy Water 

      by Cheryl Hardacre, Mario Valentini



Imagine meeting wild wolves at dusk in a snow-covered village street, getting drunk in a barrel the size of a house, greeting a ghostly princess at the window of the palazzo in which you live, drawing pocket money from the church donation box using tar and wire and eating hot crostata from the village oven. Imagine love in a field of red poppies and dares with ferocious bulls in the wild, Italian mountains. This was the childhood of Mario Valentini as he travelled the ancient hilltop villages of the magnificent Abruzzo region of Italy with his uncle, a priest. Throughout the tales are the succulent tastes, aromas and the fascinating cultural traditions of the Italian mountain people of Abruzzo.


Cheryl Hardacre has written Mario’s childhood adventures in the boy's voice, 

sweeping the reader along to experience first-hand the joy, the tragedy and the humour of Mario’s daily life and adventures. The result is an evocative account of an Italian childhood, and a book that has literary award judges and readers captivated around the world. Published by major publishers on three continents and 

now translated into Italian, CHEWING GUM IN HOLY WATER has been optioned to go to film. 

Order online. Published by Allen & Unwin, Australia; Skyhorse Publishing, New York and CS Rizzoli, Italy.

“It’s wonderful. In a word: evocative.” Sun Herald


If you loved watching CINEMA PARADISO, you’ll be equally enamoured of this nostalgic memoir" ... “the setting and time are wonderfully evoked.” Gleebooks


“Lively, sweetly humorous 

coming-of-age stories affectionately evoke a lost time and place.” 


An excellent book and very well written, it is all the more impressive for being written by an author who herself has no Italian ancestry.”

Judges’ review, SHORTLIST, Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2007

A Bigot in the Apple Tree

                    by Cheryl Hardacre

a bigot bookcover chalkboard.jpg


Unruly, outspoken and almost eleven, Kate Hardwick is keen to get rid of her indifferent English mother so she can enjoy the utopia Australia her radical artist father has put inside her head. With extinction off the table, Kate is keen for a reverse-deportation: sending her mother back to England where she belongs, preferably on a convict ship. But within the bigoted adult world of 1960s white Australia, things go very wrong when her mother does leave for an overseas trip; Kate attempts to rectify the situation by “behaving” and unwittingly sets in motion a devastating series of events. 


Kate finds herself on a personal mission that's both hilarious and poignant: digging up bodies in backyards, getting tips from the Mafia via the Italian boy Joe (who is not her boyfriend), accidentally inciting her tough-as-nails aunt to stand up to a demeaning husband, and attempting the impossible … behaving at school … all of this turning the world around her upside down. In this flux, she raises to the surface a vicious divisiveness fermenting in the polite society around her and finds herself caught within this darkness until finally, with help from beyond the grave, she speaks out publicly against this bigotry and injustice. 

A BIGOT IN THE APPLE TREE is the coming-of-age story of a girl and, in parallel, the coming-of-age story of her country. It is a story about race and class and gender through the eyes of a child unbound by convention, and of survival in the darkest of circumstances. By turns hilarious and moving, A BIGOT IN THE APPLE TREE is a story about bigotry and migration and what defines “home”, about discovering who you are both alone and in belonging, and about protecting what is deeply and sweetly yours without trampling on what is essential for the joyful existence of others.


A Bigot in the Apple Tree is due for release in 2020.  Email for further details.

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