Review Blog

Nov 20 2013

Australia's greatest people and their achievements by Linsay Knight

cover image

Random House, 2013. ISBN 9780857980205.
(Age: 12+) Australian history. Biography. Recommended. It is always intriguing when picking up a book such as this to see who is included, and then ponder on why they are there, and then think about who is not included. The flyer accompanying the book asked that question 'Who do you think should be included in this book?' and that is how I read it. The decisions made by Linsay Knight must have been agonising.
The section on politics will be sure to create debate with a double page devoted to Rudd, and only a page on such luminaries as Menzies and Keating. Or slip into the entertainment section and debate with friends on who could have been included, or the Fine Arts to see who has been left out. It is a fascinating and brief introduction to those who have helped make Australia what she is today, those who have made some sort of achievement in their field of endeavour, those who will be remembered.
As a reference book, it is a starting point for younger students to develop some idea of the person they are interested in or sent to research. Each contribution has their name in full, followed by their birth and death dates. A paragraph follows with information about their early years, and then a paragraph about their contribution to Australia. In the side margin is a list of their honours and awards, and a photo is included. The double page on Margaret Olley, for example, outlines her early life (1929-2011) and then her devotion to still-life painting for which she is renowned. A photo of one of her art works is included, and a list of her awards is given. On the double page is also a small inclusion of another famous Australian artist who died this year, Jeffrey Smart, but researchers will have to go somewhere else to find more about him.
This is a useful compendium to have in the library or classroom, as a research tool to dip into or begin the search. It is nicely presented, easy to use and has a colourful list of contents, and very extensive index. The whole is divided into sections offering a most useful tool to young students.
Fran Knight

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