Review Blog

Apr 22 2015

Stand up and cheer by Loretta Re

cover image

Wild Colonial Company, 2014. ISBN 9780992306922
(Age: 10-14) In 1934, an air race commemorating Melbourne's centenary took place with a wide variety of aircraft piloted by men and women from a range of countries flying from London to the Australian city. We can barely imagine the excitement and interest that this generated in a country so isolated from Europe where many people struggled to survive the Great Depression. This carefully researched novel accurately recounts the historical details whilst depicting the events in an enjoyable narrative. I appreciated that the author understood the magnificence of the factual details and avoided embellishment or unnecessary literary addition.
The tale is structured around a family of Mum, Dad and two boys - Arnie and Jack, who live in Albury. The father is employed as an ABC announcer which is important because the family enjoys a standard of living well above that of those who have been flung on to the 'Susso' or Sustenance queues as a consequence of unemployment. Radio is also significant because families of the time relied upon it for entertainment and information, due to the isolation of towns but also the enormous distance between Great Britain and Australia which made travel and communication terribly slow. Morse code radio signals enabled the only means of communication with the air race participants and when Arnie and his pal are given an obsolete set, their obsession with all things aeronautical prompts them to learn Morse.
The actual historical events provide ample drama and tension and the author shows skill in presenting the events through her characters who faithfully play the roles of the real life participants. The story is packed with detail which helps set the scene and to some extent there is a feeling that every crumb of research has been laboriously included. However, I soon reconciled this when I noted that many younger readers would have little or no understanding of everyday life in this era and it was vital to help them appreciate the setting. It is fair to say that modern readers may need to be transported to a time and place where both frugality and contentment had an influence on a world devoid of the excess present today.
Stand up and cheer is the perfect title for this work which recounts the amazing actions of simple people who eagerly took their place in a momentous event. This is a wholesome belter of a story which will be enjoyed by children from 10 years to teens.
Rob Welsh

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