Tag Archives: Sydney history

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.

To the Bridge – Corinne Fenton. Illustrated by Andrew McLean

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1570582164047

Walker Books Australia

April 2020

ISBN: 9781925126822
Imprint: Walker Books Australia

Australian RRP: $26.99
New Zealand RRP: $29.99

If ever there was a story to inspire kids to follow their dreams this surely has to be one that is right up there with the best. In our modern world it seems completely unbelievable that a nine-year-old boy and his pony could travel  six hundred miles unaccompanied from Victoria to Sydney but that’s how Lennie (and Ginger Mick) became an Australian legend.

In the Great Depression there were few things to keep Australian spirits buoyant aside from building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and our Don Bradman. For a young boy living in Victoria the marvel of engineering that was to be Sydney’s iconic bridge was fascinating and he longed to see it for himself. Having proven himself to be both resourceful and dependable his father agreed to his journey on his beloved pony, Ginger Mick. Averaging about twenty miles a day Lennie was feted by supporters along his route by the many who had heard of his mission and was even greeted by the Prime Minister Joseph Lyons in Canberra. Schoolchildren and adults alike were uplifted by Lennie’s determination and he was shown much welcoming warmth from families and even ‘posh’ hotels as he grew closer and closer to his destination.

What a character this boy must have been and I have often wondered about the man he became because surely a child with such sturdy determination and resilience must have become a truly worthy and dependable adult.

This is a book that will completely fascinate your readers and will provide them with an insight into a period of Australian history that was very grim but was also a time of hope with so many doing their best to rally in community spirit. They may well enjoy re-tracing Lennie’s journey and doing a virtual exploration of the towns and locales through which he passed.

Absolutely a cracking book for your collection and so highly recommended for your readers from around 7 years upwards.

Listen to ABC Conversations about Lennie’s story here.

 

 

Sweet Adversity – Sheryl Gwyther

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sweet-adversity.jpg   TBC

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd

ISBN: 9781460755105
ISBN-10: 1460755103
RRP : $17.99

 

In her new historical novel Sheryl Gwyther takes  readers on a dramatic, sometimes tense and often poignant adventure to a grim time in Australia’s past – the Great Depression. While the Wall St collapse impacted all around the world, Australia suffered terribly because of a variety of factors; huge loans from England, over-supply of our trade goods and the sponsorship of both returned soldiers and immigrants among them. For many it was a precarious time of minimal survival.

Adversity McAllister, only child of theatrical parents, is among those for whom this was a heart-breaking and dangerous time. Her parents know that their livelihood is in jeopardy as travelling thespians so think their best action for their beloved daughter, along with her clever cockatiel, is to have her in a home where she will be well-cared for and protected. Little do they know that the vile Matron in charge is not only far from the kindly woman she presents to outsiders but a ‘crook’ who skims off the government funding and worse, has an arrangement to sell useful or promising children off as nothing more than indentured slaves to an extremely odious co-conspirator.

Addie is not a docile child by any means (love her Mighty Girl sassy attitude) and when she believes that her parents have perished in a drowning accident in their travels and then Macbeth, her Shakespeare quoting bird, is likely to be killed, she takes action. Escaping the Emu Swamp Children’s Home with Macbeth via a borrowed gypsy caravan Addie first lands with a camp of ‘lost children’ all of whom are fending for themselves.  At least Addie makes one true friend here who proves to be a lifesaver.  But this respite doesn’t last long as the vile Matron and villainous Scrimshaw catch up with her and she is dragged back to the home. Aided by an unlikely ally she and little Jack, whom she has protected during her time at the home, are bundled off to Sydney where Addie is to be sold to a theatre where her acting and singing talents will bolster the failing performances. Addie has discovered the perfidy of Matron Maddock and she is determined not only to extricate herself and Jack from their predicament but to find the pair of them a safe haven.

Depression times Sydney is a dangerous place for many but especially vulnerable children but Adversity demonstrates her intellect and spirit as she contrives a safe escape for herself, Macbeth and little Jack.

This is a tale of courage and resilience set against a backdrop of extraordinarily difficult times and seemingly insurmountable odds. Addie is an impressive hero. Despite her youth and her troubles, she refuses to bow to the immense pressures and evil predation put upon her.

A narrative which explores a seamy side of our history but celebrates the triumph of one young girl, this is a must for your shelves and your avid historical fiction readers.

Highly recommended for readers from around 11 years upwards.

Read the story behind the story here. Thank you Sheryl for sharing this!