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The Schoolmaster’s Daughter

The Schoolmaster's Daughter

The Schoolmaster’s Daughter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Schoolmaster’s Daughter

Jackie French

Angus & Robertson, 2020

384pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781460757710

The turn of the 20th century, a new nation and perhaps a new start for Hannah’s family as her father has been appointed schoolmaster of the one-teacher school at Port Harris, a town founded, owned and ruled by one man who built the local sugar cane industry, itself built on the slave labour of the Pacific Islanders “contracted” to work and live in conditions that would rival the worst of what we know about the southern states of the USA.

It is not an auspicious start with the Cecily McPhee foundering as she was caught in a storm of Pirate Bay, and the shipwrecked travellers having to fight their way to shore.  While the men decide they will try to find a way to the port, the women shelter and are rescued by a young lad and taken to his family farm. But that young lad is coloured and the product of a mixed marriage between his white mother and his Kiribatian father and immediately the first ugly seeds of racism start to grow.  While Hannah and her mother have no qualms, the other women immediately adopt the holier-than-thou attitude of European settlers of the time and demonstrate why Jamie and his mum have been ostracised. 

Add into the mix Mrs Gilbert’s liberal views, her passion for women’s suffrage and universal education that includes girls and non-whites, so much so that she starts a secret school for Hannah and Jamie, and you have another powerful historical novel that is as much fact as it is fiction.  Once again, Jackie French exposes the reader to times past that have been hidden because men wrote the history books and directed the classroom curriculum by bringing her own family history to light and to life.  As the nation moved through the early months of Federation, the first tentative steps towards women’s suffrage and the introduction of the White Australia Policy that prohibited all non-European immigration and was not abolished until 1973 when it at last became illegal to discriminate on the grounds of race, Hannah and her mother unpeel those carefully constructed layers subtly and softly through staying true to their beliefs without fanfare or fuss and certainly not offence. Hannah’s mother is very well aware of the impact of scandal and how it would affect the progress of change.  Now, 120 years on, we are starting to see and appreciate the determination and strength of those shoulders on which we stand as we become and celebrate a nation of many cultures, enjoy universal education whose value is even clearer in current circumstances, and even our personal lives as we choose to marry or not, divorce or not, have children or not.

Definitely a read for older, independent readers, this is a story that has both the deepest of depths and the widest of implications as we really consider where we have come from as both individuals and a nation, and where we want to go.  For this is a unique time in which the world has paused and we can choose the future, personally and collectively.

Scientists who changed the world (series)

Scientists who changed the world

Scientists who changed the world

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scientists who changed the world(series)

Charles Darwin

9781925820706

Rachel Carson

 9781925820690

Sir Isaac Newton

9781925820713 

Anita Grey

EK Books, 2020

64pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

It could be said that never before in the lives of our young students, has science been at the forefront as it is at the moment.  Every night on the news and in other programs they have access to, science is featured along with the obligatory white-coated scientist as there are reports of progress in the race to a vaccine and treatment for Covid-19, the disease keeping them trapped inside. The importance of research, testing, trials and all the other vocabulary associated with the discipline is becoming a natural part of their vocabulary and there would be more than one little one who now has aspirations of finding that one thing that will save mankind.

So this new series about the scientists on whose shoulders today’s generation stands is timely, Apart from anything else, it demonstrates there are almost as many fields of science as there are people investigating and so if immunology and epidemiology don’t appeal, then there are endless other facets that might. The first three in the series introduce us to a physicist, a marine biologist and an anthropologist, all of whom changed the world’s thinking with their discoveries .

Using accessible text, colour illustrations and an appealing layout, young readers are introduced to each including not just their discoveries but also their early life that influenced the paths they took. With at least three more in the series planned (Albert Einstein, Galileo Galilei and Stephen Hawking) this is a series that will be a most useful addition to the library’s collection because of its modern presentation and timely release as children return to the classroom with big dreams of adding their names to the list of world-changers.

 

ANZAC Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front

ANZAC Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front

ANZAC Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANZAC Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front

Alison Marlow Paterson

Big Sky, 2015 

52pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925275148

In the years of 1914-1918 over 330,000 Australians served their country in a war far from their homeland, more than 60,000 of them died. Five of these Australians were brothers; three of them were destined to never return to the home they loved.

The Great War brought enormous sorrow to families all over the world. In Australia there were few who escaped the fear, nor the tragedy. This is the story of the Marlow brothers. This powerful children’s book brings their story to life for future generations. It is a tragic tale of mateship, bravery and sacrifice; a heartbreaking account of a family torn apart by a devastating war. It is a pledge to never forget.

Based on the original title Anzac Sons; the Story of Five Brothers in the War to End All Wars, this important children’s book compiled by the granddaughter of a surviving brother tells the true story of brothers’ service, the impact on the family and community and weaves through the facts and history of the Great War and battles.

Combining beautiful prose and imagery including photographs, maps, letters and facts, the book will reach children of a variety of ages. Children, teachers and parents can read the letters her ancestors wrote from the trenches, walk in their footsteps and remember all those who have served throughout the generations to defend our freedom and our way of life. This and Dreaming Soldiers have been released as a special 2020 ANZAC Day book pack with a number of accompanying resources.  Details are available here

As we prepare to commemorate an ANZAC Day like no other in living memory, with services online and driveway commemorations, this is a book to be shared at this time so we can think about the sacrifices made by those who have gone before to keep us safe, and renew our commitment to what we have to do now to keep others safe.  And if you can’t get this one in time for this year, there are plenty of other suggestions here

 

Dreaming Soldiers

Dreaming Soldiers

Dreaming Soldiers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreaming Soldiers

Catherine Bauer

Shane McGrath

Big Sky, 2018

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781925675528

Jimmy Watson and Johnno Hogan were the best of friends – swimming-in-waterholes, camping-under-the-stars, sharing-water-bottles kind of friends. Throughout their lives they did everything together and even when their paths diverged because there were different rules and expectations for “white” and indigenous children then, they still came back together as close as they had ever been.  And then one day they went into town for supplies, heeded the call for men to fight in a war far away and enlisted…

This could be the story of any number of friendships of the early 20th century when ‘white’ and indigenous kids on farms formed friendships that were blind to colour, cultural differences or any other racial prejudices and its strong focus on that friendship is its positive. While the treatment of indigenous soldiers during the conflicts that Australia has been involved in since the Boer War in 1899 could have been its focus, its power lies in that spotlight on the friendship, the shared adventures and stories, the fears and hopes that are common regardless of skin colour. Teaching notes are available. 

As we prepare to commemorate an ANZAC Day like no other in living memory, with services online and driveway commemorations, this is a book to be shared at this time so we can think about the sacrifices made by those who have gone before to keep us safe, and renew our commitment to what we have to do now to keep others safe.  And if you can’t get this one in time for this year, there are plenty of other suggestions here

 

 

To The Bridge

To The Bridge

To The Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To The Bridge; the journey of Lennie and Ginger Mick

Corinne Fenton

Andrew McLean

Walker Books, 2020 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

 9781925126822

Little Lennie Gwyther is fascinated by the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but unlikely to ever see it because it’s a long way from Leongatha in Victoria to Sydney in NSW.  And even less likely because the country is in the grip of the Great Depression and money is tight for train fares.  But when his father his hospitalised and Lenny takes up the responsibility of running the family farm, his parent decide to reward him for his hard work.  Lennie knows what he wants to do but because train fares are so expensive, he decides to saddle up his horse Ginger Mick and begin a journey that is the stuff of legends, 90 years later. So much so, that he is remembered in his home town with a statue to tell his story

Both Corinne Fenton and Andrew McLean have created a sensitive reconstruction of Lennie’s quest, bringing to life a time of great hardship for families that might be being echoed in homes again now.  But Lennie had a dream and he was able to make it come true, so perhaps this will offer some hope and comfort to a new generation facing an uncertain future. Lennie’s story is one worth sharing, even moreso now.  Why not set up an opportunity for students to investigate stories of kids who achieved their dreams like Lennie and maybe share the dreams of their own?

 

Eureka!: A story of the goldfields

Eureka!

Eureka!: A story of the goldfields

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eureka!: A story of the goldfields

Mark Wilson

Lothian Children’s, 2020 

40pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9780734416810

Like thousands and thousands of others, Molly and her father have emigrated to Australia to try their luck as gold prospectors in Ballarat, Victoria. Life on the diggings is hard and Molly misses her mother, who died before they left England.

A Chinese teenager, Chen, shows Molly and her Papa how to pan for gold and helps them when their food and money run out. Not everyone on the goldfields is friendly, however. Chen and other Chinese diggers are often bullied and the police lock up miners who haven’t paid the exorbitant gold licence fee. Before long, Molly, Papa and Chen are caught up in a protest that will become known as the Eureka Rebellion – a legendary battle that will profoundly affect them all.

Based on a true story, this intricately illustrated story gives an insight into what life was like on the Victorian goldfields particularly from the perspectives of a young girl and that of being Chinese.  For the Chinese were not welcome, were not trusted and racism regularly raised its ugly head.

 IMO historical fiction like this is a critical element of helping our students understand the nuances of life at the time, I wonder what a book of the future will depict about this time we are living through.  Because this is based on a true story it could also lead to investigating the sorts of documents that people kept,  like family Bibles, photographs, diaries and journals, and the role they play in helping us reconstruct the stories of the past. Perhaps students could document “A Day in the Life Of…” as a way of memorialising this time because what will happen to all the emails and photos and so forth that are only stored online, without a physical copy for posterity.

For those for whom a study of the goldfields is on the curriculum, this is an excellent example of how history can be accessed through a narrative and enable young readers to get a more human insight into the time that bare facts and figures do not offer. This is what Mark Wilson does best and in this, he is at his best.

 

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anzac Girl: The War Diaries of Alice Ross-King

Kate Simpson

Jess Racklyeft

Allen & Unwin, 2020 

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99  

9781760637019

It is 1914 and war has broken out in Europe and because of its ties to England, Australia is mobilising. On one of the ships leaving port is Sister Alice Ross-King who is not going for the adventure like so many of the men, but because her passion was nursing and her country needed her.

She thought she was ready but as the entry in her diary for April 29th, 2015, just four days after the Gallipoli debacle, shows, they were not… “I shall never forget the shock when we saw the men arrive covered in blood, most of them with half their uniform shot or torn away. They kept coming, seven at a time.  Soon all our beds were full and new ones were being brought in and put in every available corner…”

Written by Alice’s great-granddaughter and taken from the actual diaries of Australia’s most decorated woman, this remarkable book, a seamless weaving of text, diary entries and illustrations, offers an extraordinary insight into life during World War I for those at the front line. It begins as a love story but when her fiance is killed, Alice has to find a way to carry on despite her grief, to put her duty before her personal loss and feelings. 

As we are unable to commemorate Alice and all our other men and women in familiar ANZAC Day activities this year, sharing this story and others like it, is one way we can take ourselves back in time to remember just how it was we have arrived at where we are, and perhaps put any current hardships into perspective.  Perhaps older students could research the stories of one of their family members, trace their family tree and write the diary that that person might have written as their contribution to honoring those who have gone before in the absence of traditional tributes.

Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet

Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet

Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantastically Great Women Who Saved the Planet

Kate Pankhurst

Bloomsbury 2020 

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9781408899298

Many of our students now know the name of Greta Thunberg,  but do they know the names of the women on whose shoulders she stands?  With its very visual, colourful layout, this is one of a series from a creator whose own name is synonymous with women who changed the world, and introduces just a handful of the women who have made it their mission to respect and protect the planet.

Young readers are introduced to people such as  Isatou Ceesay  whose recycling of plastic waste into beautiful objects became the beginning of the ban on single-use plastics;. Jane Goodall’s whose work with chimpanzsees is legendary; Anita Roddick and The Body Shop who highlighted the need for fair trade and cruelty-free products;  Wangari Maathai who recognised the dangers of devastating deforestation and planted seeds of change and the two Aboriginal women Eileen Kampakuta Brown and Eileen Wani Wingfield who led the campaign to stop the building of a nuclear waste dump near their desert home of Woomera in South Australia. 

Offering inspiration and evidence that even small things can lead to large outcomes with the most ordinary people doing extraordinary things, it also challenges the reader to consider how they will speak up for the planet. Perhaps these women will become as well-known as today’s activists, but what is more important than their names is the work they did and why we, as a planet, are so much better for that.

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ghost of Howlers Beach

Jackie French

Angus $ Robertson, 2020 

272pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

9781460757727

 

Butter O’Bryan lives in a Very Small Castle with his father and three aunts – Aunt Elephant, Aunt Cake and Aunt Peculiar. These aren’t their real names, of course, just as Butter’s father isn’t really called ‘Pongo’.

And even though Butter is only twelve years old, and the grandson of one of Australia’s most successful Jam Kings, he is very aware of the hardship many people are experiencing.

Butter has been told there are ghosts at the nearby isolated Howlers Beach, but are there? And how can the children Butter plays cricket with on the beach simply vanish? Who are these children and why do they refuse his help?

The Ghost of Howlers Beach just sounds like one of those old-fashioned Secret Seven or Famous Five stories that generations have enjoyed for years, and in a way, it is. But this one has the unique Jackie French touch of magic, and rather than being a contemporary novel as those adventures were, this one takes the independent reader back to The Depression of the 1930s when the ramifications of World War I were still very evident and the realities of being unemployed, or worse, being a woman without a man but with a family, or even worse, being an indigenous person, are brought to light. With a light hand and intriguing characters, French brings to life life in the “susso camps” ; the great divide between the haves and the have-nots and the ever-present threat of diseases like polio before vaccines were available.

Read against the backdrop of today’s coronavirus pandemic and the worldwide economic collapse, it is very clear how far we have come in less than 100 years in both health, economic and social support and perhaps put things in perspective.

The subtitle to this novel is The Butter O’Bryan Mysteries, #1 and with the cast of characters now set hopefully more will follow quickly as we not only enjoy a good, meaty story but one that teaches us about a time not that long ago but eerily familiar all the same.

The timing of its release is remarkable (set long before the current virus was even heard of) and while there are comparisons that can be made between now and then, knowing that its setting and background are based on reality there is a sense of optimism that current times will pass and we will come out of the other side. Perhaps changed, but definitely intact.

Azaria: A True History

Azaria: A True History

Azaria: A True History

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Azaria: A True History

Maree Coote

Melbournestyle Books, 2020

44pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99

9780648568407

On a cool August night 40 years ago, in the shadow of Uluru, a mother laid her baby to sleep in a tent while she and her husband and her other two children sat under the stars outside – and unknowingly began a scandal that even today, still divides opinion. For that baby was Azaria Chamberlain and before the night was over, a story that made world headlines had begun.  Because when the mother heard a rustling in the tent she turned and saw a dingo making off with the baby and called out… sparking one of the most controversial episodes in modern Australian history.

For despite the baby’s jumpsuit being found by the Anangu trackers the very next day, people had not heard of a dingo taking a baby before and so the rumours and gossip started. Fuelled by media reports of a baby with an unconventional name, a family from a different religion and a mother in such deep grief she couldn’t cry, everyone had an opinion and so the story of Azaria Chamberlain captured the world’s imagination.  It would be 32 years before the truth was known and even then, many didn’t believe it. Still don’t.

At first when I received this book I wondered why this story would need to be known by our young readers, many of whom would have parents too young to remember the events. But as I read it it became clear – just as Uluru is “ten times bigger underground than it is above”, the message that we must look further and deeper for the truth than the surface headlines is very powerful, particularly in these days of fake news and deliberate manipulation and misinterpretation of facts. Azaria’s story, widely identified as Australia’s first modern trial-by-media, is just the vehicle that carries the more important concept that our older students need to bring to their research.  Look at sources for purpose, perspective, accuracy and  authority before accepting them  and relying on them as truth; that everyone brings something to a situation depending on their beliefs, values, attitudes and motives and that the truth can soon be lost under a myriad of layers.

The story of Azaria became “like a fairytale from long ago , with a wolf in the forest, a cruel king and angry townsfolk” and just like fairytales, a kernel of truth gets overlaid with embellishments and changes with every new teller. However in this beautifully illustrated picture book for older readers who now, more than ever, need to learn about the need to be critical thinkers and to not take things on face value Coote has demonstrated the evidence of every character in a story having its own perspective – even the dingo, often now maligned and vilified by humans, was just doing what dingoes do.

For those of you wanting to demonstrate why our students need to walk the extra mile, this would be the perfect introduction.