Review Blog

Apr 05 2011

The legend of Moondyne Joe by Mark Greenwood and Frane Lessac

cover image

Walker Books, 2010. ISBN 9781921720123.
Recommended. Picture book. Historical. First published in 2002 by the University of Western Australia Press, this book about a bushranger in the West, has wide appeal as a story of bravery and tenacity.
Joseph Bolitho had been caught thieving in a village in Wales and so was sent to the colony of Western Australia in 1853, where he was expected to form part of the labour gang the colony was short of. But this life did not appeal and so when the first opportunity presented itself, he escaped to the bush, developing skills of survival that would help him many more times.
This lovely picture book outlines the many times he was recaptured and imprisoned and then escaped again, taking to the bush. Sometimes he eluded the guards through cunning, sometimes simply taking an opportunity as it arose, but mostly, being simply brave. Throughout the story, glimpses of life for the new colonists are given, as the guards in the prison are retired soldiers, brought back into service with the promise of land. We see the isolation of those who live in the bush, the building of a prison at Fremantle, and glimpses of the penal system which brought so many of our predecessors to this land.
A fascinating glimpse into Australia's past about a bushranger of which little is known in the eastern states, and fabulously illustrated by Frane Lessac, The legend of Moondyne Joe will be readily picked up by students of Australian history, those who simply want a good read and those who have a penchant for biography, simply and elegantly told.
Fran Knight

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