Review Blog

Oct 02 2012

Nellie's greatest wish by Penny Matthews

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Ill. by Lucia Masciullo. Puffin Books, 2012. ISBN 978 0 1 4 330626 0.
(Ages 8+) Recommended. Australian History. The fourth in the series about Nellie, an Irish immigrant to South Australia in 1850, has the girl returning to Adelaide after a fruitless trip to The Burra, looking for her former employer, Mrs Thompson, with whom she hoped to find work. But she finds that they have gone, and so she sets out on the long road back to the town she came from, but this time on foot. With her shoes falling apart, sick from worry over her friend, Mary, who she left in an infirmary, Nellie's life looks up when a kindly farming family give her a bed for the night. They then find a ride to Adelaide the following day so Nellie arrives back in the town, eager to find Mary. But the news she receives is not good, and destitute she finds shelter in the burnt out wreck of the hotel where she once worked.
This series about Nellie, gives an incredible amount of detail about the plight of poor female immigrants who came to South Australia in the expectation of work during the nineteenth century. Many were sent to the Servant'[s Depot, an institution set up where girls could go and meet prospective employers, although these were scarce as Nellie soon found.
This is one of the six books about girls in Australia set in different times in our history. Each captures the life and times well, giving younger students a thrilling story set against a credible backdrop.
The series is well supported by a website with activities and research assignments, fun stuff and teacher notes.
Fran Knight

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