Tag Archives: Australian History

Amazing Australians in Their Flying Machines

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flying

By Prue Mason and Kerry Mason
Illustrated by Tom Jellett

ISBN: 9781922244635
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
April 1, 2017

Australian RRP: $24.99

Daughter of an RAF Lancaster WO/AG and with a dear friend who was a Squadron Leader, then a commercial pilot (RIP Dad and Wal), you might think I’d be across most of Australia’s aviation history.  Instead, I find that I’ve missed quite a significant chunk of it!

This is just fabulous and one of the best information books I’ve reviewed for a while (surely a contender for the next CBC list?).

Looking at the history of ten leading aviators of Australian history from Dr William Bland in the 1850’s (who knew?) through icons such as Bert Hinkler and Nancy Bird Walton this is a fascinating time line. It includes technical information about flying in easy to understand terms, fun facts and an update on modern aviation.

The format is super. Each double spread features an imagined piece from the actual person, then a summary of their achievements with a side panel giving some other techno information.  With illustrations plus photographic it is also a visual delight.

This is a winner-winner for either boys or girls I would guess around ten years upwards.

Australia Illustrated – Tania McCartney

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Exisle Publishing

November 2016

ISBN 9781925335217

RRP $29.99

 

Five years ago while the teacher-librarian at Red Hill Primary, Canberra, I invited a local author about whom I had heard good things to come on an author visit to talk about her popular ‘Riley’ picture books.  Elegant Tania McCartney walked into my library and we were instantly friends. The children were entranced by her presentation (one little boy wrote and illustrated his own Riley book the next day) and all of us looked forward to seeing more from this talented woman.

In the last few years I have watched with great pleasure as Tania’s work has grown and blossomed into books in which her creativity has gone to greater and greater heights.

During the process of this latest (and greatest) of her books it has been such a pleasure for so many of us to feel as though we had something to contribute as Tania sought opinions and feedback on ideas she was developing. Little did I know that my own granddaughters were going to provide inspiration for some of her illustrations!

Australia Illustrated takes readers – both children and adults – on a virtual trip around Australia to examine the beauties, nature, culture, icons and quirks of each of our states.

With a glorious binding to complete it, the book begins with some pages of general information about Australia as a whole. The double page spread underlining our diversity is marvellous but each page is a revelation and a delight. Tania’s sense of fun comes through in each new vista. The double page ‘café style blackboard menu’ that details so many of our iconic favourite foods is just one example and one of my personal favourites.

After this overview of our country we move from state to state seeing children from all over with their own unique local flavours and settings. Each new state’s pages is heralded with a detailed and stylistically fun map and already I have had children (and grown ups) delightedly pointing out places they have been or know.

The virtual trip takes in all that is special, unique or iconic of the individual states illustrated in such a glorious fashion that this will prove a book to which to return over and over to continually discover new details.

The overriding emotion evoked by this armchair travelogue of our great country is one of joy in all that we, as Australians one and all, and our beautiful land have to offer. I have already sent off two copies to my Welsh friends, who recently visited and were entranced by the very small snippet they saw, for their grandchildren to savour. The appeal to adults is validated by the fact that Tim, Welsh grandad, had to have it prised out of his hands to be put away for the children!

In a social climate when we are eager to encourage our young readers to embrace all that is good about our nation – the people, the diversity, the beauty and the traditions – this is a book which resonates with a patriotic pride in its purest sense.

This is a definite ‘must have’ for your library collection indeed but also for your personal bookshelves and for you to share with your friends overseas. I know ours will be treasured and enjoyed for years to come.

Australians all, let us rejoice! That we have author/illustrators of Tania’s calibre is indicative of what we have to offer to a world too often troubled with negative and destructive images.

Congratulations Tania on a simply superb creation. Roll on the lavish praise and recognition for a truly remarkable book!

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 Riley’s red planes flying over Red Hill library!

 

Postscript from Tim: As the Welsh grandad referred to, but not because I’m he, I would endorse the review wholeheartedly. As a visitor, it gives a bite-sized introduction to Australia that informs but doesn’t overwhelm. I loved it and look forward eagerly to being able to share with my grandies!

 

 

On the River – Roland Harvey

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Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760112455

Imprint: A & U Children

 July 2016

RRP $24.99

 

“The book is about the Murray River, from top to bottom. The system is vitally important to graziers, food growers, communities for drinking and domestic use, for irrigation, for hydro power, for recreation and for the health of the environment wildlife and habitat. I thought there was a great opportunity to reveal the history and some of the secrets of the Murray. Most people cross the Murray, see little bits of it, fly over it, visit a few tourist spots but seldom see the system as a whole, or appreciate its complexity or the role it plays in our cultural environment, economy and lives.”

Roland Harvey (@ Allen & Unwin)

Not only is this a fabulous picture book with a wealth of discoveries to be made in each illustration as we are well used to with Roland’s books but it is a superb teaching resource. What better way to teach geography, ecology, historical and cultural importance than through a gift of a book such as this.

Beginning with the fantastic annotated maps on the endpapers readers can journey through the entire Murray River system learning about the many aspects that make this river such a significant part of our country.

They will also find out why the Murray was threatened and the steps that have been taken to restore it to its former health and beauty.

This is a must have for any school library as it will become an important resource for many units of work as well as providing great pleasure for any children who closely examine its delights.

With some very useful teaching notes and a fun activity sheet as added value, this has to be on your shelves.

Highly recommended for children aged around 8 and upwards and teachers as an amazing teaching resource.

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On the River Activity Sheet

The Hero Maker: A Biography of Paul Brickhill

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The Hero Maker: A Biography of Paul Brickhill

The Australian behind the legendary stories The Dam Busters, The Great Escape and Reach for the Sky

By Stephen Dando-Collins

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Penguin Random House

ISBN 9780857988126

August 29, 2016

Imprint : Vintage Australia

RRP: $34.99

 

As the daughter of a Lancaster wireless operator/air gunner growing up in the Sydney suburbs one of my favourite spots in our house was in front of our fireplace which had built in bookshelves on either side. My father was a voracious reader and Paul Brickhill’s books were among his favourites. I had also consumed them all by the time I was 12 and returned to them many times over the years. Now those same copies reside on my own bookshelf.

Having been raised on such a steady diet of Brickhill and knowing that my father had (at some stage) been acquainted with him (who knows where?), it would be reasonable to expect that I might have had some knowledge of the man’s life. The only thing I’ve ever known was that he was a journalist.

Thanks to this wonderful biography, which I have also devoured as greedily as I did the man’s books, I now have a much greater awareness of this hugely successful writer and his often troubled life.

Because I urge you to read this for yourself (I could almost impatiently stamp my foot and say ‘you must’!) there is no need for much detail regarding the content. Dando-Collins takes us on the full journey of Brickhill’s life including some background history regarding his family’s involvement with newspapers. He describes the young Paul’s childhood on the North Shore of Sydney and his meeting with a solitary unkempt boy of similar age named Peter Finch who became a lifelong friend. An uninspired school experience led to some unfulfilling jobs until Brickhill gained a foothold in the newspaper business which was his heritage, rising quickly through the ranks from copyboy to journalist. Despite enjoying some accolades for his work Paul felt in need of a new challenge and adventure and decided to realise his childhood dream of flying by joining the RAAF (despite initial disdain of enlisting). Before too long he was a fully-fledged Spitfire pilot and on combat missions but was shot down near Tunis narrowly escaping death as he abandoned his ‘kite’ and was captured by Italians who of course promptly handed him over to the Germans. There followed a long stint in Stalag 3 which Paul was later to make famous – or infamous – as the setting for The Great Escape (RIP The Fifty). Although an integral member of the X Organisation Brickhill was not among the escapees and at the close of war was force marched across Germany with other POWs along with retreating German troops and refugees. Returning to civilian life after the trauma and privations of POW existence was not easy for many survivors, Paul among them but his determination to tell the story of the Great Escape and honour his comrades drove him to complete his first ‘escape’ book. Almost ten years later, with other escape books,  The Dam Busters and (what I still regard as) his ‘tour de force’ Reach for the Sky, the biography of Douglas Bader, Brickhill was celebrated around the world for both books and screen adaptations as well as journalistic pieces.

The rigours of the war were not the stuff of easy and calm futures and Paul’s tempestuous and tumultuous marriage to young model Margot eventually collapsed into catastrophe. This is no kid gloves account of Brickhill’s personal life. His unpredictable moods and tempers (including striking his wife on a number of occasions), the depression, mental illness, heavy drinking and reclusiveness are all revealed.  When his marriage finally faltered it seemed that so did Paul’s creativity and though he ‘worked’ on several projects over the next two decades, he more or less lived rather like a hermit in his small top floor unit in Balmoral, Sydney, without ever publishing again.

Some critics have dismissed Brickhill’s work as being too ‘journalistic’ but I will say I have never enjoyed reading newspapers and the like, but I love reading Brickhill. If their comments refer to the fact that he employs his skills of journalistic details and observation, yes he does. But he also has a deft touch for laconic humour and the ability to weave facts into a cracking yarn. For me the absolute joy of this book was that Dando-Collin’s literary style appears to echo the very essence of the subject’s own work and at times I could ‘hear’ Brickhill’s voice telling his own story in his own words.

I am so grateful to Random House Australia for allowing me the privilege of reading and reviewing this volume. I am also grateful to Stephen Dando-Collins who has breathed life again into one of the integral storytellers in my life. How fitting in 2016, the 100th anniversary of his birth and 25th anniversary of his death that Paul Brickhill’s skill and story can be brought to a new generation of readers and this tribute which is a testament to his global acclaim is both perfect and poignant.

If you have secondary students who are keen on biographies I suggest this would be a valuable addition to your collection but above all, as an Australian reader, I highly recommend it to you to celebrate the life of one of our most widely recognised writers.

 

A blog Q&A with Stephen is being organised now so stay tuned for more!

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Flt-Lt Paul Brickhill

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Kevin Albert Warren – this one is for you Father Bear x

The50Memorial

Yong : the journey of an unworthy son – Janeen Brian

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ISBN: 9781925126297
Imprint: WALKER BOOKS AUST
Distributor: Harper Collins Distribution Services for Australia and New Zealand

August 1, 2016

RRP $16.99

There have been many accounts of the Chinese coming to Australia in the gold rush era both for adults and children but this is the first I have read which explores the history of some of these worthy migrants making their arduous journey to get to those diggings.

While this is historical fiction there are so many parallels to contemporary issues surrounding the plight of refugees risking all for a better life and the treatment which many of them receive.

“ Janeen Brian has vividly and realistically brought to life 1850s’ Chinese and Australian culture, and themes of prejudice, racism, exploitation, desperation and coping with change are explored.”

Yong’s father is Headman of his village, widowed and living with young children and an aged grandmother when he persuades a group of his fellows to join him on what they hope to be their salvation. He takes a reluctant oldest son, Yong, with him. They are swindled and beset by troubles from their initial ship voyage to the trek to the goldfields by tricksters who see them merely as objects of scorn. The contrast between the honour, respect for others and cultural values held by this group and that of those they encounter is poignant and terrible. Yet, they persevere in their quest, most especially Yong who struggles with his feelings of resentment and disloyalty towards his father and his feelings of inadequacy in the face of such a monumental challenge.

Beautifully written, with short chapters and a plot laced with danger and daring, this has strong links to curriculum (particularly Key Idea: Australians of Asian heritage have influenced Australia’s history and continue to influence its dynamic culture and society.)

If you are looking for a new novel for a class reading in Upper Primary or as a read aloud to accompany a unit of work this would be a superb choice.

It is also bound to very popular with Middle to Upper readers of historical fiction.

Highly recommended for readers aged around 10 years upwards.

Update: New trailer here

The Lost Sapphire – Belinda Murrell

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ISBN: 9781925324112

Published: 16/05/2016

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

RRP $17.99

Once again Belinda Murrell has set her readers’ feet upon a path to the past with an ease that is breathtaking.

When Marli’s mother has to go overseas for work for several months, the teenager is sent to stay with her estranged father in Melbourne, doing so with the scowling bad grace that only an adolescent can summon. While all her friends will be back in Brisbane enjoying themselves for the holidays, Marli knows only too well that her workaholic father will leave her to moulder in boredom and loneliness.

Only one bright spot lightens her mood. She is reunited with her grandfather Didi who has some intriguing news. The old mansion owned by Marli’s ancestors, which has been leased to the government for ninety years is to come back into their possession. Derelict and abandoned, the old house seems destined for demolition.

Marli is determined to find out more about the mysterious mansion and its secrets especially after Didi handing over some artefacts which once belonged to his mother, Violet. Although a precious sapphire ring has not turned up in these, the other items are enough to spur Marli on in her journey of discovery.

Sneaking into the grounds of the mansion through a neighbouring property, Marli is surprised by Luca, a young man from the Italian family of neighbours who also has a connection to the old place.

As two parallel stories unfold, the reader shares in Violet’s life in the 1920s: the loss of her two brothers in the Great War, then her mother’s death, the emotional distance of her father and most interestingly the painful history of the chauffeur Nikolai, a Russian émigré whose family has escaped the Bolshevik revolution as well as following the progress of Marli’s Melbourne sojourn and her growing reconciliation with her father.

As usual, Belinda has woven a story of complete authenticity and within her fiction has much for us to learn about a period of time and events in Australia that are not widely known.

It is fascinating and engaging and will undoubtedly be as hugely popular as the other titles in this wonderful ‘time slip’ series. I have already had the first borrower snatch it up quickly five minutes after it went on our ‘new books’ display. I think that probably says it all!

Highly recommended for girls in Year 5 upwards.

 

Barney and the Secret of the Whales – Jackie French

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ISBN: 9780732299446

ISBN 10: 0732299446

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

On Sale: 01/02/2016

Pages: 144

List Price: 12.99 AUD

 

Is there any other author who has such a deft hand at bringing Australian history alive for young readers as Jackie French?

It appears this much –loved and well-respected writer is unsurpassed in this particular genre (not to mention all her other writing!).

 

The second instalment in the The Secret Histories series re-introduces the reader to young Barney. The boy’s mother was a convict but she sadly died like so many on the perilous journey of the First Fleet and Barney, being a free person but a child, would still be at risk if not for the generosity of the Johnsons who have taken him to their hearts.

In these early days of the colony, life for so many can be harsh and surviving can be fraught. Accruing any kind of wealth is almost unheard of as the newly founded settlement lumbers along.

 

Then an exciting visitor named Captain Melvill turns up and brings with him tales of great adventure and the lure of riches to be had from whaling.  Barney is not greedy by any means but he knows that one day the Johnsons will return to England and he along with his little friend Elsie will need to make their own way in New South Wales. If he can go whaling it would mean the opportunity to earn the stake money for a small farm for them.

 

Life on a whaling ship as a boy is tough and often hard but it is not that which makes Barney heartsick. It is the cruelty of the killing of one of the most magnificent animals he has ever encountered. The hunting of sperm whales with the riches they bring to men revolts Barney to a point of misery.  Fortunately after just one hunting expedition Barney is able to return to his peaceful home.

 

For lovers of history this examination of a little known aspect of the early European settlement in Australia is fascinating. For students who are inquiring into such history it is vital to my mind. No longer can we gloss over the less honourable events in our country’s history.

Highly recommended for all readers Year 4 and up.

Not Your Usual Bushrangers – Peter Macinnis

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Five Mile Press
ISBN: 9781760065690
Published: July 2015
Imprint: Echo Publishing

RRP: $34.95
Many years ago my dad handed me a copy of Frank Clune’s ‘The Wild Colonial Boys’ saying “You should read this.” – a common occurrence as we shared both a literary taste and an interest in colonial history. From that moment I was hooked well and truly on the exploits of the Australian bushrangers.
I never imagined that I would have the privilege of reviewing the latest book from super-clever-clogs and fascinating writer/historian/scientist Peter Macinnis. And yes, I would describe him as such even if he wasn’t a friend of mine!
Peter takes us on a journey through the entire span of Australia’s bushranging history, rather than the focus being on just a few well- known names. While I have been to Ben Hall’s grave and to Melbourne Gaol where Ned Kelly was hung and Thunderbolt’s Rock, amongst other significant sites, I have never heard of most of the rogues and scallywags Peter writes about in this entertaining account. And that of course, is the entire point.
Beginning with those early convict ‘bolters’ (who perhaps aren’t how we would now define bushrangers) right up to some youths in the post Great War years trying their hand at the ‘game’, Peter traces the development of the Antipodean highwaymen (and women!) with an engaging and often humorous slant.
As always, his work is meticulously researched and in his searching he has uncovered many interesting original documents and reports which examine the contemporary records, attitudes and consequences of all stakeholders.
And naturally, although the bushrangers are the focus of the book, the reader also gains a real insight into colonial Australia from the time of European invasion to the early 20th century.
While primarily aimed at an adult audience, this is a book which would sit easily in a school library as a reference point for those units dealing with Australia’s history since the White colonisation as it is written in a very accessible style.
I can highly recommend this history for both your school library and for your own personal reading. Definitely a winner and worth bailing up your local bookseller!

Download an extract here.

Our Australian Girl: Daisy All Alone (Book 2) – Michelle Hamer

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Our Australian Girl: Daisy All Alone (Book 2) – Michelle Hamer

Penguin Australia

Published: 23/04/2014

Format:Paperback, 136 pages

RRP: $14.99

ISBN-13:9780143307648

ISBN-10:0143307649

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The Our Australian Girl series and characters have been extremely popular with girls 8 and up who are looking for an exciting and adventurous read. The concept was originally Jane Godwin’s when she was dismayed that girls in the 8-12 age bracket lacked worthy books that would engage them without the ‘tween’ fluff so common in most of their reading.

 

In 2014 two new characters have been introduced – Daisy and Pearlie.  Each series is set in a different period of Australian history and Daisy is the 1930s girl – and not one of the fortunate ones.

 

Separated from her dad, and then extended family, Daisy finds herself homeless and alone in a grimy and dangerous Melbourne far removed from her original country home.  Despite the efforts of her two friends to find her some temporary shelter, Daisy is snatched off to the Melbourne Orphanage (although she is not a ‘real’ orphan) with dozens of other homeless Depression children.  Following a daring escape along with two other unfortunate inmates, Daisy is returned to the grim orphanage and is left without hope of ever being reunited with her father and sister.  With two more to come in Daisy’s story and the teaser of her being adopted in the next book, readers will want to continue with the unravelling of Daisy’s dilemma.

 

These books are perfect for the age of the intended audience and whilst not sanitising the troubles of the relevant history of their setting, keep the more graphic details out of the storytelling. Readers will gain an understanding, in this case, of the effects of the Great Depression as well as the population’s obsession with the mighty Phar Lap and the Melbourne Cup.  Factual information at the end of the book provides even more for the reader who wishes to have a greater understanding.

 

A highly successful project which has kept many young readers fully engaged, this and others in the OAG are highly recommended for your girls 8 plus.

 

http://www.ouraustraliangirl.com.au/