Review Blog

Sep 16 2011

Meet Letty by Alison Lloyd

cover image

Ill. by Lucia Masciullo. Our Australian Girl (series). Penguin, 2011, ISBN 978 0 14 330540 8
(Ages 9+) Recommended. Australian history. Letty, a young girl in a stepfamily, is at the docks at Gravesend farewelling her older sister, Lavinia, who has read that the new colonies have too few women and so taken the step to migrate to the new land in search of a better life. But there is a mix up, and Letty finds herself sailing with her sister. Through the adventures of the two girls and those they befriend on the ship, we see how new settlers came to Australia, overcoming the privations aboard ships that were not built for these voyages, and which offered cramped conditions, disgusting food, squabbling migrants, rats and disease to those on board.
We feel for them when they are seasick, or having to clean the cramped squalid sleeping quarters, or sleeping 2 to a bunk, or only having one change of clothes going from the cold of the northern Atlantic to the sweltering heat of the tropics. When Lavinia gets typhoid, Letty sees her new friends with clearer eyes, as she struggles to help her sister survive, swapping some of her sister's linen for medicine. The girls survive all sorts of things buoyed by having found work in Sydney before they left England, but when they arrive, this work evaporates leaving them bereft. Luckily a young man, a sailor Letty met on the ship comes to their rescue.
The first in the quartet of stories about Letty, a young emigrant in 1841, in the series, Our Australian Girl, holds the readers' attention as Letty nears the place that will be her home. Readers will absorb snippets of information about Australia in the colonial era without being aware of it, adding to their knowledge base reading this foursome. With large clear print, and short chapters, the story is easy to read and rattles along, adding considerably to the reader's knowledge of Australia's past. Each of the stories has several pages of just facts adding again to their knowledge and then a easer for the next book in the series.
Letty and her adventures have a grim reality which is at once engaging and informative. Letty is a most interesting young woman, and the contrast with her sister gives the stories extra zest. The backround is highly believable and adds a solid credible base to the four tales.
Fran Knight

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