Review Blog

Jul 12 2013

Lina at the games by Sally Rippin

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Our Australian Girl series. Penguin, 2013. ISBN 978 0 14 330702 0.
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Australian history. Olympic Games. Migrants. Lina, the daughter of Italian migrants who settled in Melbourne after World War Two, is aiming to be a journalist and so jumps at the chance to accompany the principal at her exclusive girls' school to the swimming. It is 1956 and the Olympic Games are in Melbourne, and as Lina holds Dawn Fraser in the highest esteem, she longs to see her swim. But at home, her brother comes home with a bloodied face, and Lina finds he is seeing an Australian girl, and her brother does not want her mixing with migrants. At school too, Lina finds that her friend, Sarah, derides her to others as a wog. As with the first two books in this excellent set of four, Lina is in an awkward position, keeping her home life separate from school and friends.
At the Olympics, hostility is brewing between some of the teams. Hungary has been invaded by Russia and so the water polo event between these two countries turns into a blood bath. A new friend that Lina meets on the tram, takes action and writes a letter, imploring them to do something about the closing ceremony to make the games truly peaceful.
All of this happens through Lina's eyes. We see the different people who inhabit her world, Sarah's racist father, the bodgies who hate the Italian migrants, the Chinese friend on the tram, the growing number of children at Lina's school from migrant backgrounds and over all, the Mother Superior at Lina's school, celebrating the diversity of her students.
This set of four books creates the new world of Australia after World War Two for today's students with easily absorbed historical detail. Lina's tale sits well against this background and readers will enjoy reading of her life during the Olympic Games.
Fran Knight

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