Review Blog

Jan 10 2012

Nancy Bentley: The First Australian Female Sailor by Tracy Hawkins

cover image

New Frontier, 2011. ISBN: 9781921042768.
Born in 1914, six year old Nancy was living with her large family in a small cottage in Port Arthur. Living near the harbour, Nancy and her siblings had much freedom to go and play outside without parental supervision. One day, as she followed her brother and sister home to tea, Nancy was bitten by a poisonous whip snake. With the doctor being too far away to safely reach, her father, Frank, instead rowed her out to a ship moored in the harbour. Immediately, she was seen by the ship's surgeon who declared her too ill to move. Captain Cayley then faced a dilemma. In the year 1920, females were not allowed on board naval ships so he made the decision to enlist her as 'Mascot Bentley 000001'. As she regained her health, Nancy was taken for a special outing with the members of the crew and, shortly thereafter, returned home.
This brief snippet of Australian history is simply written and accompanied by Jacqui Grantford's realistic water colour illustrations. The text and art work meld together to provide a snapshot of Australia in the early days. The inclusion of a black and white photograph and an original document add to the title to give children a brief lesson in history in a book which could be used to discuss women's rights and the history of the Australian navy.
Jo Schenkel

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