Review Blog

Jul 20 2020

Matthew Flinders: Adventures on leaky boats by Carole Wilkinson

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Illus. by Prue Pittock. Wild Dog Books 2020. ISBN: 9781742034935.
(Age: 6+) Highly recommended. Stylishly presented, this book of Flinders' journeys will delight younger readers as they travel with him, marvelling at the journeys he undertakes and the places he visits, the maps he draws. And in the main accompanied by his cat, Trim.
Flinders joined the British Royal Navy, sailing with Bligh, dreaming of expeditions like those of Captain Cook. Sent to Australia, he met George Bass also bent on adventure and the two arrived in Botany Bay in 1795. They sailed in two expeditions along the southern coast of New South Wales in the Tom Thumb. Later the pair proved that Van Diemen's Land was not attached to the mainland and when Flinders sailed back to England, he wrote to Sir Joseph Banks asking for his backing for an expedition to sail around Australia and map it. With England at war with France, things could be tricky, and during his expedition he met Nicolas Baudin off the coast of South Australia, mapping from the opposite direction. His mapping of the continent was an amazing feat, with his crew ordered to eat fresh fruit and vegetables to avoid scurvy.
Many leaky boats later, Flinders survived being shipwrecked, captaining a small boat back to Botany Bay for help with his marooned sailors. But another leaking boat in the Indian Ocean saw him arrested as a spy and imprisoned for six years at Mauritius.
His maps have endured, used until very recently as a standard, and it is his statue outside the library in Sydney with his cat Trim which attracts much attention. Statues can also be found in Port Lincoln and Melbourne, while South Australia has an abundance of places named after this man.
A glossary and timeline augment this already fascinating book, a story well told and spectacularly illustrated by Melbourne artist, Prue Pittock for younger readers to appreciate the lengths early explorers went to map this continent. Prue's ink and coloured pencils light up each page as Flinders' travels unfold, her soft understated style augmenting the text, but so detailed, young readers will gain more insight from closer examination. An easy to follow map of his exploits around Australia end the text, and the story of how Australia was named is told.
This is a wonderful addition to any school or home library.
Fran Knight

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