Review Blog

Feb 12 2015

Lennie the legend: Solo to Sydney by pony by Stephanie Owen Reeder

cover image

National Library of Australia, 2015. ISBN 9780642278654
(Age: 9+) Recommended. Lennie the legend is based on the story of Lennie Gwyther, who rode his pony Ginger Mick from the family farm in Victoria to Sydney to attend the opening ceremony of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932. His journey was reported in the newspapers of the day, and like the bridge he went to see, helped to lift the spirits of Australians during the Great Depression.
Stephanie Owen Reeder has developed an effective strategy for focusing on a personal journey while immersing readers in the daily life of a bygone era. Lennie's story, told in strong, well-paced prose and convincing dialogue, relates how he coped with bushfire and flood, was helped by relatives and strangers alike, and encountered characters as diverse as swagmen and the Prime Minister. Each stage of the journey ends with an explanation of one aspect of social conditions at the time - farming life, the consequences of the Great War, mass unemployment and the optimism engendered by nation-building projects such as the construction of Canberra and the bridge. An epilogue traces the course of Lennie's life until his death in 1992. These passages facilitate an understanding of the significance of Lennie's achievement while allowing the narrative itself to flow uninterrupted by intrusive explanations of its historical context. The text has been complemented with photographs, maps and posters, which the designers have presented in the style of an old-fashioned photograph album. A bibliography, glossary, picture credits, index and author's notes are evidence of thorough research. The inclusion of some invented names, dialogue and events is explained as being due both to necessity, when information is unavailable, and to a desire to heighten the impact of the story.
Part history and part historical fiction, Lenny the legend brings to life an inspirational episode from Australia's past and provides an insight into the values and resilience of a generation that survived against the odds.
Elizabeth Bor

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