NLA Publishing, 2016
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Jim loved living at Four Wells – hunting rabbits, exploring with Bluey and chasing goannas. But life in Australia’s remote regions can be very lonely and there were times when Jim wished he could be a bit closer to his best friend Frank. He couldn’t wait until they got one of those “new-fangled radios” that were making people so excited. It would be wonderful to hear voices from all over the country – voices other than those of his mum and dad who loved the life as much as Jim did, but who often felt just as lonely and isolated as Jim.
So there was huge excitement the day a truck finally appeared on the horizon and a man called Alf helped them connect it altogether and how to use the pedals and tap out Morse code. And when the words, “Hello to everyone at Four Wells, Welcome aboard” came back, it felt as though the world had burst open!
But when a snake spooked Dad’s horse and he fell off with a thud, that radio came into its own…
Although the Australian Inland Mission Aerial Medical Service under the stewardship of John Flynn was well established, it was clear that there needed to be better ways for those in the Outback to communicate their needs and their location so during the 1920s Alf Traegar worked hard at inventing a radio that could be powered by foot leaving the hands free to tap out the dots and dashes of Morse code. He finally succeeded in late 1928 and in mid-1929 the first radio was installed in a private home, changing the lives of so many for ever.
While there is information in the back of the book about the invention and impact of the radio, it is the way Jane Jolly has interpreted this into a personal story that brings the importance of its invention to life so that today’s technology-immersed children can connect with life in a time not so long ago. Surrounded by instant communication with the entire planet, it takes something like this story to demonstrate the life of children before the Internet and the difficulties that were faced not 100 years ago!!! These developments have happened within the lifetime of their great-grandparents.
Robert Ingpen’s illustrations are exquisite – each one featuring a monochromatic drawing of its focus and then opening out into a double page colour spread that echo the colours of the land, its unique light and emphasise its vastness and isolation.
A superb contribution to Australia: Story Country.