Tag Archives: Claire Saxby

The Wearing of the Green – Claire Saxby

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Walker Books

April 2022

ISBN: 9781760653583
Imprint: Walker Books Australia
Australian RRP: $18.99
New Zealand RRP: $21.99

It is certainly no secret that I love historical fiction, and colonial Australian history is a particular favourite of mine. I loved this exciting new narrative from Claire Saxby – whose prowess with picture books is already so well established. Set just two years before my first ancestors arrived in this country, this recounts the importation of young Irish girls to become, essentially, servants and/or wives in a colony that was heavily male dominated. With Ireland in tatters after the Great Famine (also known as the Great Hunger, the Famine or the Potato Famine) and 1 million dead as a result, many young girls ( among others) faced uncertainty without family or home to shelter them. These girls were outfitted with a basic wardrobe and shipped to Australia, among them young Biddy Blackwell whose older brother has been out in the colony for some years.

When Biddy arrives and her brother Ewen is nowhere to be found, she is sent to work on a remote farm with a cruel master, an indifferent and downtrodden wife and finds she is little more than an unpaid slave. Surviving first the conditions in which she finds herself, but then even worse after her master’s first wife dies and he brings home a new one, equally as nasty as himself, Biddy manages a daring escape following the mayhem of a flood, and finds herself back in the city under the protection of the hostel. While she discovers some clues as to Ewen’s possible location, she needs to restrain herself and finds herself working for an eccentric but kind journalist as his ‘eyes and ears’ in the courtrooms of Melbourne.

The prejudices and persecution with which the Irish immigrants are faced is rising fast and when Biddy attends the court sessions and sees one well-known dissenter, Brendan Black, she is elated to find she has finally discovered her missing brother. Naturally, his situation presents some problems but with the help of new friends and supporters, the way is made smoother and Biddy can finally hope for a new start, complete with family.

Claire Saxby’s inspiration for this novel was her own family history and this little known episode in Australia’s history is important to understand as its impact on the rise of concepts such as fair pay and work conditions cannot be under-estimated.

Highly recommended for readers from upper primary to mid-secondary and for students of Australian history, this is certainly a prime candidate for ‘read around your topic’.

The ANZAC Billy – Claire Saxby/Mark Jackson & Heather Potter

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Walker Books

anzacbilly

ISBN: 9781925126815
Imprint: Black Dog Books

Release Date: April 1, 2019

Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

As thousands of Australians and New Zealanders pay homage to those who have given to our countries in service, often with the ultimate sacrifice, this is not only a timely release for this time of year but for all time. If we as educators are to help our students to comprehend the devastation of war and to embrace a more peaceful way forward, there is no better way than to provide them with a glimpse of a child’s experience during such circumstances.

Children in the First World War were encouraged to send welcome Christmas packages to those serving in the war zones, as indeed they still are today. For one little boy, the filling of his father’s Christmas billy is an important mission and he along with his mother and grandmother make sure that every item packed lovingly into the vessel is chosen with real care.  But there are hundreds, indeed, thousands of such billies packed and sent. How will this particular one reach his Daddy? Well, perhaps it won’t – but it will reach a digger who will appreciate the true love that it contains and it this significant aspect that is arguably the most telling. Yes, this little boy misses his father and prays he is safe but if he can make one soldier’s Christmas brighter, it is the same he hopes for his own Dad.

We live in perilous times and our daily news is filled with horrendous acts of hate and violence. If we are to have any hope for a peaceful future we must – MUST – guide our children towards compassion and love for all.

The text is simple but powerful and the illustrations completely capture the sense of the period in history, particularly the colour palette echoes the pervading feel of both the times and the critical situation that was The Great War.

This is my choice for our Friday story telling session tomorrow in the library – with accompanying ANZAC biscuits of course.

Thank you to the creators for giving us another wonderful entrée for our young readers into an important understanding and potential for personal growth.

Highly recommended for sharing from Prep upwards.