The Secret of the Youngest Rebel (Secret Histories Book 5)
Angus & Robertson, 2019
128pp., pbk., RRP $A 14.99
1804 in the fledgling colony of New South Wales, and Frog, like so many orphan children is starving, eking an existence by stealing food scraps and anything else of value for Ma Grimsby in exchange for some rat-infested straw to sleep on at night. Tempted by an apple tart in a basket carried by a fine lady, Frog cannot resist and snatches it – but is caught by a tall man and life changes forever. It is the time of the Irish uprisings against England in Ireland, and transported to the colonies for their sedition, the word of rebellion is spreading through Sydney Town, Parramatta, Green Hills and beyond. And the person who has caught Frog is their leader, Phillip Cunningham.
Frog is enraptured by Cunningham, his eloquence, his promises and enthralled by the thought of a life that is so much better than this and the cry of “death or liberty”, Frog joins the rebels in their ill-fated rebellion at Castle Hill but Frog has a secret even bigger than that of being a rebel. To say much more would be to disclose Frog’s greatest secret and that is something that the young independent reader should have the surprise of discovering, but this is another intriguing read and one that offers amazing insight into the lives of the children of this time – a life so utterly different and unimaginable for today’s younger generation.
Meticulously researched as usual, based on eyewitness accounts and reaching back into her family’s history, Jackie French has created the fifth in this series of this country’s secret histories, and it stands proudly alongside Birrung the Secret Friend, The Secret of the Black Bushranger, Barney and the Secret of the Whales and Barney and the Secret of the French Spies helping to bring history alive for young readers who may otherwise see it as dry, dusty and irrelevant.
This is a must-have series in any library as it not only sits alongside the mandated curriculum but brings it to life in a way that only Jackie French can.