The highs and lows of life for youngsters in the 1870’s

that boy jackTITLE = THAT BOY JACK

AUTHOR = JANEEN BRIAN

GENRE = FRIENDSHIP, FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, ROMANCE  

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS

For those interested in Aussie history, this story will be an absolute delight. Set in the 1870’s in the early days of South Australia, the novel is based around the life of a youngster in a tin mining community. Jack and his family live simply in a small cottage built by his father. Mother spends all day baking and cleaning and looking after Jack’s younger brother and sister. And Jack must help out with chores before and after school (such as brining in fire wood, carrying in buckets of water and tending to the goat.

But Jack enjoys life; he loves school and has fun playing in the surrounding bushland with his best mate, Gilbert. The only thing Jack doesn’t really like is the thought of working underground as a miner, like his father. Yet he has promised Gilbert that when school is over he will join him as a miner, assuming that day is well into the future. But when Gilbert’s dad is injured, Gilbert must become the breadwinner of the family and Jack finds an awkward decision looming before him.

Can he back out of a blood promise … and what will his dad think of him if he does?? But if being underground really frightens him… what choice does he have??

Young readers will enjoy learning about the life and times during this period of Australia’s history … it might even make them reflect on how much easier our modern lives are… especially when Jack’s sister becomes dangerously ill …. There are no ambulances to ring..no medical centres to attend. And those children who complain about school might think again when they read about some of Jack’s trials and tribulations during his school life.

Recommended (dma) ****

An intriguing tale from our past

TITLE  = NANBERRY: Black Brother White

AUTHOR = JACKIE FRENCH

GENRE = HISTORICAL FICTION, RACISM, INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 8

Set during the time of Australia’s early settlement, this story begins in 1788. Nanberry is a young Aboriginal boy enjoying his traditional way of life, until his family and tribe is all but destroyed by disease (probably caught from the new white settlers). Surgeon White rescues the lad and not only saves his life but also, he decides to adopt him, as he has no family of his own. Nanberry soon learns enough English to act as a translator for Governor Phillip. He learns to wear English clothes and eat English food, he learns to respect the white culture and some of its citizens whilst always having a love for his own tribal way of life. At times these cultures pull him in different directions, especially when there are conflicts between the local tribes and the white settlers.

Whilst Jackie French has undertaken vast research before writing this story (and she provides useful notes and references at the end of the book for interested readers) this novel is always an engaging story rather than a history lesson. Many of the characters are real people (including Nanberry himself) but Jackie French certainly brings them to life. Nanberry is a thoughtful and interesting young boy, his adopted father the Surgeon White is well meaning but unusual in many respects (few other families had a possum as a pet!). So readers are sure to enjoy reading about their life journeys and learning more about what life was really like in the early days of Australian white settlement.

It is no surprise that this book has been shortlisted, CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers (2012)

Highly Recommended (dma) *****