Review Blog

Oct 02 2013

The Nelly gang by Stephen Axelsen

cover image

Walker Books, 2013. ISBN 9781921977916.
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Graphic novel. Gold rush. Bushrangers. Australian history. When Nelly and her father Paddy finally strike it rich on the Victorian goldfields in 1860, they are really thrilled. But bushrangers find out about the gold and holdup their coach on the road to Wodonga. They kidnap Paddy, but Nelly flees into the bush. It is then up to Nelly and her friends Jin, Miro and Queenie the goat, to rescue Paddy and retrieve the gold.
This is an exciting adventure story that children will be able to read for the sheer thrills of the kidnap and escapes. Nelly is a spirited heroine who is ably helped by her little gang as they fight their way through the bush and take on the evil bushrangers who are hiding out. As Nelly plunges into danger, the reader will learn much about life on the goldfields and the great diversity of nationalities that came to Victoria hoping to make their fortunes. Axelsen's illustrations bring the period to life and it is obvious that he has done a lot of research into the period. This book contains a treasure trove of information for the reader to uncover about the gold rush period in Australian history. A schoolroom in a tent is illustrated, showing trestle desks, slates, blackboard and chalk and a nasty teacher wielding a cane. Miners are drawn showing them digging shafts and cradling for gold and the tent city and transport and clothing of the period are also illustrated all in an amusing and involving way that will keep an observant reader occupied for quite some time. A short glossary at the back explains some of the words like 'Eureka' and 'Good morning' in many languages.
This story really succeeds on two levels. It is a funny, engrossing adventure story with a multicultural flavour. At the same time it is an ideal book to have on hand for students when studying the gold rushes and bushrangers.
Pat Pledger

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