There were definite moments, on reading this book, when I felt like it was written just for me. A story about children evacuees in World War Two - oneThere were definite moments, on reading this book, when I felt like it was written just for me. A story about children evacuees in World War Two - one of my favourite things to read about. A story about found families - I totally love that stuff. The main character shares a name with my new daughter - meant to be!
But this book is more than just that. It's a subtle and beautiful look at change and sadness and finding your place when the world changes around you. I definitely felt frustrated with the choices of the characters - particularly Ada and Susan - at times, but I totally understood why they made the choices they made. And the secondary characters are written beautifully too - there's such depth and richness throughout the book.
I would read this aloud to a class in a second, and can't wait to share it with my own children when they grow older. ...more
A book set around September 11 for an audience who weren't born when it happened is always going to be a difficult balancing act. And while there wereA book set around September 11 for an audience who weren't born when it happened is always going to be a difficult balancing act. And while there were some good moments in this one, the symbolism felt heavy handed and at times the book felt more like a school text than a stand alone read. The bully was a particularly overdone element - that amount of physical abuse and yet there's a feeling that the kids just have to deal with it. All in all, the book just didn't have the power it should have....more
Robbie has some awareness of what happens in Walgeree. But living with his father and overbearing Nan doesn’t really give him a greater understandingRobbie has some awareness of what happens in Walgeree. But living with his father and overbearing Nan doesn’t really give him a greater understanding of the world. It’s not until he gets a summer job at the local caravan park with Barry – a man who’s spent time overseas and isn’t impressed with the overwhelming racism of the town – that he starts to understand how bad thing are for the local Aboriginal people. In the summer of 1965 the Freedom Riders are on their way to town and things are at boiling point.
My first thought on this book is ‘why wasn’t this around 5 years ago!’ My class was investigating Australian History and one of the students was researching the Freedom Rides – this would have been perfect for her in so many ways. Hopefully there are other students like her who will benefit from this book and the often overlooked history of the time.
Sue Lawson has done a wonderful job of creating a really awful country town atmosphere. The exclusion of people who aren’t ‘locals’ was spot on, but it was the outwardly racist social structures of the town which was incredibly uncomfortable. Two aspects of it really struck me as a modern reader: this didn’t happen that long ago – my parents would have been just younger than Robbie at the time; and there are still aspects of the social structures, particularly in the language used, that we see today. I could imagine parts of this book provoking some very interesting discussions in a classroom.
Coming from the perspective of a white boy who is employed by a white man, it would have been easy to slip into making those characters ‘white saviours’. Mostly the author manages to avoid that, though there were some aspects of the ending which felt a little like that. Mickey, Robbie’s coworker, is a strongly written character who doesn’t ‘go easy’ on Robbie for his ignorance, but points it out, insisting that Robbie can do better.
On top of learning about how bad the conditions are for the local Aboriginal people, Robbie is dealing with issues at home. His grandmother is determined to control him and his father, insisting that Robbie lives his life the way she wants, but never showing him any form of affection or love. Towards the end of the book a massive family secret is revealed, adding to the feelings of revulsion Robbie has had over his father and grandmother’s racist and close minded attitudes. This additional storyline made Robbie’s break from his past believable – in Barry and Barry’s mother he found affection and openness along with more progressive ideas.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’m really glad that there’s Australian Historical YA dealing with this part of our history. I really hope more authors tackle this political and social history into the future.
Alice and Billy are both kids living in Sydney during the building of the Harbour Bridge. Billy is from a working class family, managing to survive thAlice and Billy are both kids living in Sydney during the building of the Harbour Bridge. Billy is from a working class family, managing to survive through the depression through his father’s employment on the bridge. He’s painfully aware of the effects of the depression – with friends forced to move away – and the dangers of being a labourer on the bridge. Alice is from an upper middle class family with less worries about money or day to day survival.
Last year, I read a fabulous (adult) book set around the building of the bridge – The Blue Mile by Kim Kelly. I was really hoping for a similar kind of book – fabulous fiction in a historical setting – especially since it is part of the great My Australian Story series. Unfortunately, the book was light on the fiction side of thing. Mostly the diary entries of both Alice and Billy are a collection of facts and thoughts about the building of the bridge and the economic and political situation of the time. There’s barely any other story, though there’s a tiny bit about a friend of Billy’s whose family was forced to move to a camp.
The alternating story lines didn’t really work for me, either. Primarily the different perspectives are indicated in different fonts and there were a few times when I had to double check whose story I was reading. I think I would have preferred the story told just from Billy’s point of view – Alice came across as very privileged and not terribly interesting, while I think there were story lines around Billy which could have been extended more.
If you’re interested in the facts of the bridge, this would be a great book for you. It does do a great job of bringing facts that can sometimes be a bit dry into a really readable format. I wonder whether more history books for children would benefit from a diary like approach. However, if you’re expecting historical fiction with a heavy dose of fiction, I’d probably direct you to one of the other My Australian Story books.
Annie’s father has been fighting in France but hasn’t been heard from in months. Annie’s mother – who is French, herself – decides to take Annie and hAnnie’s father has been fighting in France but hasn’t been heard from in months. Annie’s mother – who is French, herself – decides to take Annie and herself halfway across the world from Sydney to try and find him on their own.
This is one of the very popular and very good, My Australian Story books. I’ve read quite a few of them (and the very, very good New Zealand counterparts – track them down if you get the chance) but this one was new to me. Unlike many of the others which primarily are set in Australia, this is primarily set in France, not far from the battle-fields of the First World War.
One of the striking parts of the book is that it tells stories you don’t always hear about. First and foremost, it’s the story of civilians trying to live their lives while the war looms so close nearby. It’s also a story of fighting in France – a topic often forgotten in classrooms and story telling in an Australia so focused on the Gallipoli campaign. I probably learned more about Australian involvement on the Western Front through this book than I ever touched at school.
There were parts of the book, though, which felt a little too convenient. Annie seems to meet the right people at the right times and obstacles in her way seem to melt away when she needs them to. It gives Annie and Paul (the boy she meets in France) the opportunities to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance, but it stretches believability a bit at times.
This is, however, another strong addition to a great series of books. Annie’s really easy to relate to as a character and it’s easy to be on her side as she tries to find her father. There’s some absolutely lovely moments as she and Paul unravel the mystery, and a stark reminder of how many people were lost or injured in the war. With so many commemorations focused on Gallipoli, this year, it’s a fitting time to visit books like this as a reminder of the other campaigns of the First World War.
I absolutely loved this book. Rose is a pampered, but overly restricted girl living in Melbourne in 1900. Her mother insists on governesses, corsets aI absolutely loved this book. Rose is a pampered, but overly restricted girl living in Melbourne in 1900. Her mother insists on governesses, corsets and becoming a ‘proper lady’. Rose is not allowed to play cricket with her brother, not allowed to read exciting books or learn about geography or history and certainly not allowed to catch a tram or explore the more exciting stores of Melbourne.
That is, until her exciting Aunt Alice – a teacher – comes to stay. Alice had exciting ideas such as women being allowed to vote, being more involved in society and being able to use their brains. She takes Rose out on an adventure to a restaurant her mother (a member of the Temperance League) would never approve of, and a magical visit to Coles Arcade – to the disapproval of her mother. But will she ever be able to break free from the restrains that her mother places on her?
I adore this time period, so this book was always going to appeal. There were such big things going on in Australia at this time, with Federation looming and women beginning to gain power across the country (and in New Zealand). Rose is trying her best to break free of her mother’s restrictions, but with Alice’s arrival it really looks like there might be possibility of a change. I am really looking forward to reading more of this one and finding out what happens next!
This was probably my least favourite out of the four introductory books in the Our Australian Girl series, but it was still an enjoyable read. Letty’sThis was probably my least favourite out of the four introductory books in the Our Australian Girl series, but it was still an enjoyable read. Letty’s sister, Lavinia is heading out to start a new life in New South Wales, when Letty finds herself accidentally on the ship as well! The book mostly looks at the difficult journey to New South Wales, as well as introducing the odious Jemima and the helpful Abner who befriend Letty on the journey.
I think one of the reasons I didn’t like this one as much is that I really didn’t like a lot of the supporting characters and I found Letty to be pretty silly at times, like when she gave away her sister’s good pillow case, knowing how expensive it was, just to keep a friend. It also feels like bad things keep happening to Letty and her sister, and it begins to feel a bit overwrought at times, though hopefully, some of the complications would be resolved in later books.
This is probably a more unspoken story than the familiar convict tales that children learn about. The idea of packing up a whole life and sailing a difficult journey around the world to start a new life is a concept which fascinates me. Again, this would be a brilliant book for the classroom and would probably be appealing to a lot of boys as well as girls.
Meet Poppy is actually an introduction to the third girl and time period in the Our Australian Girl series (also including Grace, Letty and Rose). SetMeet Poppy is actually an introduction to the third girl and time period in the Our Australian Girl series (also including Grace, Letty and Rose). Set in 1864, we are introduced to Poppy, a young orphan who is living with her brother at the Bird Creek Mission. When her brother runs away and she discovers that she is to be sent to a family in Sydney, before the usual age of 12, she decides to pretend she is a boy and set out to find her brother.
I know Heidi loved this one for many reasons, including the setting. That would be one of my few grumbles with this series – all the stories centre around New South Wales and Victoria – it would be great to see more diversity in locations to include Queenland, Tasmania, South Australia or Western Australia. These areas seem to be missed in children’s historical fiction, which is one of the reasons Georgiana was a pleasant surprise.
Poppy is an incredibly likable character, even more than Grace. She’s brave and resourceful and takes pride in her achievements. There’s a lot of learning which could be connected to this book as well, from the Missions to Bushrangers and the Gold Rush – it was a busy time in Australian history and that is reflected in the book.
While it’s not my favourite of the books (I adore Meet Rose), I thoroughly enjoyed this and can’t wait to read what happens to Poppy next.
This is a really interesting ‘series’ (there are actually four groups of four books) for younger readers. Each series showcases one girl at a particulThis is a really interesting ‘series’ (there are actually four groups of four books) for younger readers. Each series showcases one girl at a particular point of Australian history. I got the 1808 (Grace) and 1864 (Poppy) books out of the library first, so I read them before reading the 1841 (Letty) and 1900 (Rose) books – however, so far I’ve only read the first book in each of the series!
Meet Grace introduces us to Grace, a young ‘mudlark’ who scavenges for things to sell from the mud of the River Thames. She lives with her harsh and abusive uncle, but soon finds herself in trouble with the law when she steals apples to feed a starving horse. Before long she finds herself on the way to New South Wales, another convict being sent to a faraway town.
Grace lives in horrific conditions, and the book doesn’t shy away from how hard it could be for a young girl like her. I wonder whether some children, living in a country which expects them to study until they’re at least seventeen, would find Grace’s circumstances to be a bit unbelievable. She has a strong interest in horses, something which I am sure will come into play in later books, and is incredibly sympathetic to the people and animals which have it worse than her.
One of the things I really liked about these books, is that they’re clearly appropriate for younger years, but engaging and well written enough for all readers to enjoy. They’re short, with larger text, but the stories are rich – making them particularly good for children with reading difficulties. These would have been an absolute hit in my classroom, and I would have easily recommended them for a wide range of students. They’d also be great for reading aloud, getting students involved in the time period.
Georgiana is a historical fiction about the real life botanist and early Western Australian settler, Georgiana Molloy. It follows her journey, and theGeorgiana is a historical fiction about the real life botanist and early Western Australian settler, Georgiana Molloy. It follows her journey, and the journey of another family who is settling along with them, as they travel to Western Australia, soon developing the town of Augusta. Although it briefly goes into her time near the Vasse River, most of the book concentrates on her time in Augusta.
While the subject of Georgiana Molloy is certainly fascinating, I found most of the book very tedious to read. There’s no doubt that it was an incredibly well researched book – but sometimes it felt like I was reading more facts than story. It also slipped uneasily between historical fiction and memoir for a lot of the book, which made it difficult to read, and quite wearing to the reader. I felt like I was constantly being told the same thing about Georgiana, though this did ease up by the end. Additionally, the story of the other family (which I assume was the fiction part of the story) felt quite over-dramatic and at odds with the story of Georgiana and her family.
Georgiana really was a remarkable woman. She took on a demanding role as Magistrate’s wife (and often Magistrate while her husband was away) and set up house in a brand new, challenging settlement. She experienced horrific losses, with one child dying soon after birth and her son dying after falling in a well. She had an extremely difficult time recovering after childbirth, but still managed to become a well regarded botanist. Her story is amazing, and I would love more Australian children to learn about her. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will be the book that will do that.
On a side note, Australia is not particularly good at providing good biographical books about notable people in our history. When we taught biographies to grade 7s in 2012, we desperately wanted to include a number of Australian choices for the students to write about. However, they were extremely limited in the research they could do – confined to websites and books which were incomplete or written for an adult audience. There’s a fabulous series of biographies for children from the United States – the Who Was . . . series – which tells the story of notable people in an engaging and entertaining fashion. It would be awesome to see Australian writers take on a project like this – and it would be a great way to share people like Georgiana Molloy.
(Disclaimer – I know the author through the internet)
Back in the olden days before I became a teacher, I completed an arts degree with a double major(Disclaimer – I know the author through the internet)
Back in the olden days before I became a teacher, I completed an arts degree with a double major in Ancient History. My real love was Ancient Athens (I even learned Ancient Greek), but I did have a certain fondness for the early empire.
Which, luckily for me, is what Love and Romanpunk is based around.
The book is part of the Twelve Planet series and consists of four short, related stories. In the first one, Julia Agrippina’s Secret Family Bestiary, we are introduced to the background to our story, told by my favourite of all Roman women (I studied Nero a little, so spent way too long designing collapsible boats with other wayward students. Did I mention we drank a lot of wine in the Ancient History department?) It turns out that the twists and turns of the early Roman empire where not caused by revolution and jealousy and a certain fondness for horses alone. Instead, there were numerous creatures and beings, some of them members of the ruling family. While we learn about the Roman world, which is kind of as we knew it, we are being fed information which sets up the next three stories – including the introduction of Lamia – Roman vampires.
In Lamia Victoriana, we follow these creatures to Victorian times. We then slip forward in history to a Roman City built in the Australian outback in The Patrician, before heading into the future in Last of the Romanpunks. Each story builds on the last, and I must admit that I really feel like I should read the whole lot again so that I can really understand it even better.
I don’t read a huge amount of short stories, but I understand that it’s a delicate balancing act to create fleshed out characters, without getting bogged down in lengthy character exposition. I think Love and Romanpunk does an excellent job of doing this, building on characters that we ‘know’ and creating characters that are very easy to care about. I would easily want to read more about the different ‘worlds’ we are introduced to.
I really loved this book and I would recommend this book to history lovers, of course, but also to people who aren’t usually interested in speculative fiction, but would like to dip their toes in a bit. The format is a great way to be introduced to Australian speculative fiction, and I look forward to reading more of them. I believe Love and Romanpunk had sold out in the print form, but is easily found through Kindle or the Twelfth Planet Press website.
Time Travel seems to be a consistent theme in children’s fiction, a lot of the time serving as a device to turn the story into historical fiction whilTime Travel seems to be a consistent theme in children’s fiction, a lot of the time serving as a device to turn the story into historical fiction while still allowing for lots of exposition (since the character learns about the time period at the same time as the reader). This was fairly similar to other time travel books I’ve read (and I seem to have read quite a few!). Sam Sullivan is a nice enough kid, but he seems to find trouble wherever he goes. His parents have broken up, his father isn’t always reliable (there’s a strong history of gambling) and there’s never enough money. To make a bit extra, Sam works at the markets, but soon discovers that people play music for money. He tries it himself, playing his trumpet at a nearby monument, but suddenly finds himself being pulled back to Melbourne in 1900.
There’s a lot going on in this book and both 1900 and present day Melbourne are written quite vividly. It was a bit of a jolt when someone pointed out that the states hadn’t federated yet (that happened in 1901) and I appreciated that little piece of history snuck in, especially when there’s moments when you feel like 1900 wasn’t really that long ago. The story does drag a bit at the end of the book – it almost feels like the story has been told and completed, but there’s still more to go. That made it less appealing to me.
This is a good read for people who like historical fiction, especially Australian historical fiction. With Sam constantly finding himself in trouble, despite good intentions, it’s the kind of story which would appeal to some kids who don’t always read. I dare say it would make a very good read aloud book too.
This is, obviously, a book about the middle Bennet sister from Pride and Prejudice – the one who, along with Kitty, is most likely to be overlooked. TThis is, obviously, a book about the middle Bennet sister from Pride and Prejudice – the one who, along with Kitty, is most likely to be overlooked. Told from Mary’s point of view, it offers us some background to Mary’s personality and actions, while giving us another point of view of the Darcy/Bingly/Wickham events.
Pride and Prejudice and Jane Austen books seem to the the flavour of the month at the moment. Although I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, I cannot claim to be the biggest Jane Austen reader, so there may be some things which alluded me. But it was lovely to see such well known, almost mythic, events told through the eyes of another person. Sometimes, though, this seemed a little neat – such as when Mary knew of Wickham’s deceitfulness long before Lydia ran off with him.
The other thing that feels a little odd is when Mary sets sail to the colony of New South Wales to meet up with her (lower class) fiance. I can’t see Mary marrying out of ‘rank’ like that, and the scenes in Sydney feel a little tacked on, like the author wasn’t quite sure where she wanted to end the book. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining and easy read – perfect for a summer holiday, or for reading on a cold day with a warm cup of tea!