Hi everyone, summer is just around the corner here in New Zealand. Hopefully it dries up in time so I can share some pictures of the lovely countryside with you!! This week’s booklist is a selection of historical reads featuring pioneering Australian tweens and teens. So, if you want to find out more, you know what to do…
My first choice is the best-selling Matilda saga by Jackie French. Spanning over a hundred years and several generations, French takes readers from the dark depths of the nineteenth century as they follow the footsteps of Matilda O’Halloran and many more young women as the years wear on. Each instalment is filled with strong, courageous young women and tells a tale of mystery, adventure and is loosely based on historical events that shaped the nation of Australia. Jackie French has based a few of these on women from her own lineage and given us characters that we can easily fall in love with. As the stories progress the content and structure change making them appropriate reading for older readers. If you would like to read a longer review, just search for Jackie French on my blog and you’ll find my older posts.
The next title, Lucy’s dawn by Juliet Blair, is a story I read quite recently actually. This was an interesting book written in the form of diary entries by Lucy. Set in 1889 in Sydney, this epistolary novel traces the life of a young girl starting a promising career in a printery run by a formidable woman for women! Fourteen-year-old Lucy’s life changes when she starts working in Louisa Lawson’s printery where only girls and women are employed. But it’s the 1880’s and the male printers elsewhere think that this type of work should be for men only. So they decide to make the girls’ lives difficult! Lucy has many battles ahead, but in the process, she realsies who her real friends are – and finds her first love. I found this story quite fascinating and the notes at the back tell me of an actual person, Louisa Lawson as the first female to run her own printery and contribute to the Australian publishing industry!! The overarching themes of women’s empowerment and the inclusion of women’s suffrage made the family story seen from Lucy’s eyes even more heartwarming . Although Lucy’s family drama does take center place, the historical detail gives this a well-rounded perspective of life in those times for young women.
I’ve included this next one as it takes us to the past. The sequin star by Belinda Murrell is not your average time-slip novel. After her grandmother falls ill, Claire finds a mysterious sequin star among her treasures. The mystery deepens when the brooch hurtles Claire back in time to 1932. Claire finds herself stranded in the camp of Sterling Brothers Circus. She is allowed to stay – if she works hard. The Great Depression has made life difficult for everyone, but Claire makes friends with circus performers Rosina and Jem, and a boy called Kit who comes night after night to watch Rosina perform. When Kit is kidnapped, it’s up to Claire, Rosina and Jem to save him. There’s something about these ‘time-slip’ adventure stories that I love!! With a hint of amazement, love and a whole lot of courage, this novel takes the reader on a spectacular journey. The attention to the period details and the description of historical events are aspects that made this story memorable!!
It wouldn’t be proper to talk about Australian history and not mention the ANZACs from World War One. This next title, Loyal creatures by Morris Gleitzman, tells the powerful and moving story of a young man’s journey towards his own kind of bravery. Based on historical events that transpired during the Desert campaign in Egypt and Palestine, this story is about the Australian Light Horse Regiment and the vital role they played during this time in World War One. All were volunteers and most were well under the official army age of eighteen. Troopers took their horses and most perished there. This book gives readers a vivid and detailed description of what life must have been like for these brave souls back then. The sacrifices they all made to bring peace home. I liked the characters in this story but for me some of the battle scenes were a bit much to digest. I do remember enjoying the description of the desert landscapes in Egypt and Palestine in this historical read.
My last title, 1914 by Sophie Masson, is part of Australia’s Great War series. In June 1914, Louis and his brother Thomas were enjoying the European summer in a small town near Sarajevo. In the shadows of the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne, the world erupts into war and Louis’ life changes forever. Old Europe is torn apart and Louis finds himself in the midst of his own battle – as fighting for the truth in war means that sometimes even your own side is against you. Told in first person, Louis recounts the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo, the ensuing troubles and the eventual call to war. His adventures as a war correspondent and what he sees and hears gives a vivid image to one of history’s bleakest times. This story is told of life at the front line, and of the lives of the soldiers who fought those battles for us. It has given us an image of the actual people they were, whether they were British, French or German. They were sons, brothers, fathers and friends. Despite all the horror they faced at the front line, we see their humanity as well. The soldier’s fears and hopes are exquisitely described and what makes them take the decision to save their fellow soldiers. The actions of those journalists and support staff in the hospital barracks are also really well described. This book gave me an in-depth look at these years and this series gives an Australian take in all of it. Many Australians had gone to war and it gives their vantage point so to speak. This series is a great one for anyone who wants to understand the history of the First World War.
So there you have my favourite historical Australian titles. If you have heard of or read anything similar I’d love to hear from you.
Stay safe and keep reading