Review Blog

Feb 07 2017

Stories of life at Sydney Cove by Susan E Boyer

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Birrong Books, 2016. ISBN 9781877074493
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Beginning with the life of thirteen year old John Hudson, a chimneysweep imprisoned in Newgate (London), the book follows the lives and thoughts of convicts, their British masters and more importantly the stories of Aboriginal people, following their meeting on Australia's shores in 1788.
The book describes in a careful and balanced way, the struggle of the early years of the colony at Sydney, the attempts to find suitable farmland, the fear of the unknown, the meetings between the two cultures, the wonders of nature, the plots, unexpected opportunities and the disasters that changed lives. There are excellent insights into the lives of young, old, and women. Stories highlight leadership, adventure, dilemma, mystery and discovery in the lives of the two societies.
The book is based on thorough research and provides descriptions based on documented descriptions from the time. Based on an earlier adult book: Across great divides, the language of this edition is simplified for the young reader, and information is highlighted in text boxes, great illustrations (based on originals) and simple maps.
This book for young readers acknowledges the good and bad aspects of first settlement history but also celebrates the land's opportunities, and the deepening understanding of culture and environment. The reviewer found this book very appropriate in the light of recent controversy about 26th January as the date for Australia Day.
Paul Pledger
Editor's note: Teacher resources are available from the author's website.

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