Review Blog

Jun 15 2018

Waves by Donna Rawlins

cover image

Ill. by Heather Potter and Mark Jackson. Black Dog Books, 2018. ISBN 9781925381641
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Migration, Australian history, Refugees, Convicts, Boat people. A thought provoking overview of the waves of immigration which make up this country, is told by an award winning storyteller in a way that is informative, attractive and emotional.
When doing research prior to reading this book, I looked up My Place, Donna Rawlins' and Nadia Wheatley's book, a book republished many times since 1987 holding a revered place within libraries and on readers' bookshelves around Australia.
Now thirty years later a book with a similar theme, about who we are as Australians, is presented by Rawlins.
Divided into fifteen stories, each double page tells the tale of one child coming to Australia to live. Each of their stories is representative of one of the waves of people making their way to our shores on often dangerous seas.
The first group, shows an Aboriginal child on a raft 50,000 years ago. Becoming separated he eventually sees a line of green on the horizon. Next a child is on a ship searching for a rich cargo to take back to Europe which thunders upon a reef, and then a child comes south on a perahu searching with his family for trepang.
The second group takes in those people who came after 1788, when Australia became a British colony. We see a child huddled with his family, leaving England for the colony to make his fortune, then another child, arrested for theft, finds her way onto a prison ship bound for hell. Each story aches with emotion, as the child leaves the familiar to set out for Australia. Being blown off course, being wrecked on the western coast, sent as a convict, finding work or searching for a prized delicacy, each story is different and reveals part of our history in an easily digested format.
From the convict lass, we move on to a third group, those who arrived in the nineteenth century. We read of people on an assisted passage, then a Chinese child coming out to work on the Victorian goldfields, an Afghan boy with his camel, ready to explore, a girl on a ship where measles has broken out, orphan boys sent out to help build the empire.
A fourth group, those who arrived after World War Two begins with a group of Jewish orphans, then a family of Italian migrants, and an English family.
Between the seventies and now, is a fifth group, those who have arrived in the most desperate of circumstances, fleeing their homes in Vietnam and the Middle East because of war.
Each page is full of information, giving a background to the lives of the children and their circumstances, filling in the reasons for their arrival here.
Each page has soft edged gouache paintings with a predominance of blue as if underscoring the 'how' these children arrived, and each child is given a name, a name by which readers can identify each wave of immigration.
The diversity that is Australia is given a breathe of life for younger readers in tis excellent book, and I can imagine its being widely used and read.
Check out Walker's site for more information about the book and Donna Rawlins, with a link to teacher notes.
The marvelous endpapers show the form of transport each child used, and a timeline of when these groups arrived on these shores. This is a wonderful read for any age.
Fran Knight

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