The Tram to Bondi Beach [40th anniversary edition] – Libby Hathorn. Illustrated by Julie Vivas.

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Harper Collins Australia

January 2021

  • ISBN: 9781460759660
  • ISBN 10: 1460759664
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
  • List Price: 24.99 AUD

The one problem with book anniversaries is just how old it makes one feel!

The amazing creative partnership of these two literary talents resulted in the CBCA Highly Commended Picture Book award for 1982 and forty years after publication it is still evident why this was considered to be outstanding.

The glimpse into a Sydney long past when trams rattle noisily down the streets of Bondi encapsulates an era of simpler times when children had very different aspirations and interests. Kieran wants nothing more than to be a paperboy just like those he sees on the busy streets selling papers to the passengers on the trams that he loves so much, but his father thinks he is just too young. On his ninth birthday his father finally agrees to speak to local newsagent, Mr Francis, who agrees that he can certainly use another helper for ‘rush hour’ (if only Sydney rush hour was still the same!). He promises that Saxon, the older and more experienced paper boy, will look after Kieran. Saxon, however, has other ideas. He’s very resentful of someone else on his turf. It takes a near disaster for the older boy to accept his younger colleague and together the two boys establish a successful arrangement, satisfying to both.

Vivas’ illustrations of the Bondi of the past: streets, beach, residents, family life, are redolent of the time and would offer a great opportunity for exploration and discovery of children’s own local history. Spreads that are jumping with action are balanced with those which make wonderful use of white space to provide a whole vista of a long-gone scene.

Together these two have crafted a narrative that is nostalgic for older people but a wondrous insight into the past for young readers. This is an anniversary to put on your library calendar for sure with endless opportunities for children to be involved – old-time dress, faux tram rides with tickets, rolling and throwing newspapers, investigating the past of their local areas and family history.

As deserving of a place on your shelves now as it was forty years ago, I thoroughly recommend it to you for readers from around 6 years upwards.

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