Review Blog

Jul 20 2018

Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy series by Jane Smith

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Big Sky Publishing, 2018.
Gang of Thieves. Book 5. ISBN 9781925675238
Mrs Thunderbolt. Book 6. ISBN 9781925675320
(Ages: 7-10) Themes: Time travel, Bushrangers. Author Jane Smith presents two new time travel stories with "Gang of Thieves" and "Mrs Thunderbolt". She weaves factual information into the fictional account of young Tommy Bell who time slips between the present day and the era of history when bushrangers ranged throughout the bush.
"Gang of Thieves" sees Tommy preparing for his school camp. Unfortunately he has to leave his special friend Combo his horse behind. The only hat Tommy brings is his special cabbage tree hat and he know the consequences for wearing it, slipping back in time one hundred and fifty years. The strict camp director Mr Porter forces Tommy's hat on his head and when his vision clears he's at Ben Hall's campsite. They've met before and discuss what's happened with Hall's gang. Tommy is caught in a dangerous situation when Ben Hall and his mates raid a local store, stealing supplies, food even jewellery. He chooses to leave with the bushrangers even though they've robbed the Solomon's and had a gun fight. Tommy stays with the gang outsmarting the law, until Ben Hall rides out to see his girlfriend and their son. Police Superintendent Pottinger has deliberately set fire to their cabin. Hall's family is safe and he tells Tommy to leave this troubled life and return home. Tommy reappears in the midst of a stream where his friends are panning for gold. Just after Francis finds some specks in his pan, Mr Porter shoves Tommy's hat back on his head. Both present and past cause Tommy to think about how adult's conduct their lives and the choices they make.
Smith's sixth novel "Mrs Thunderbolt" takes Tommy into the Outback for an exciting pony camp. With his bay horse Combo along, they are ready for long rides across the floodplain. When he finds himself lost in the bush, Tommy puts on his special hat and time slips to meet Captain Thunderbolt's Aboriginal wife Mary Ann and their two children. After the family is arrested with stolen goods, Tommy rides along to help them. Quick-thinking Mary Ann pretends to be in labour and forces the policemen to take them to Wilby Wilby Station. Two days later Fred Ward (Captain Thunderbolt) and his gang return and raid the station before leaving on their stolen thoroughbred horses. Tommy learns more about the family on the long ride to Tamworth. He once again faces a moral dilemma to help with the robbing of a mail coach or not. Tommy slips back to the present, then back to help prove Mary Ann's innocence and help her be free from false imprisonment.
Jane Smith's "Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy" series of books are easy to read with Pat Kan's bold block prints both visually appealing and informative. These junior novels are an excellent History resource providing an understanding of the life and times of this era. They are an easy to use research tool - comparing and contrasting daily life, transport and the motives behind the bushrangers' actions.
Rhyllis Bignell

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