Review Blog

Mar 14 2019

The secret of the youngest rebel by Jackie French

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The Secret Histories series book 5. Angus and Robertson, 2019. ISBN: 9781460754801.
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Themes: New South Wales (1804), Australian history, Convicts, New South Wales Corp, Irish convicts, Castle Hill Rebellion. Young orphan, Frog, is barely surviving on the streets of Parramatta in 1804. Life for this orphan is spent stealing from wealthier inhabitants and giving those spoils to old Ma Grimsby. Ma Grimsby runs a shanty tavern where orphaned children sleep on straw and spend their time stealing from patrons who visit the tavern. If they do not bring home stolen items they do not eat. Life is tough until one day after stealing an apple pie, Frog is followed to a hiding spot and meets Irish rebel Mr Cunningham who talks of freedom from the corrupt and cruel New South Wales Corps. His passion enthuses Frog to join the rebels and follow them to Castle Hill. Unfortunately the rebels are betrayed and the resulting battle is a massacre. Frog manages to escape the soldiers by climbing a tree and is taken in by Barney Bean and his wife. There they discover the truth about Frog and after recuperating and learning to trust, Frog remains in the home of the Beans.
Jackie French has interwoven fiction into a period in Australia's history that has had limited recognition. It was a time when corruption, cruelty and poverty was rife. The Castle Hill Rebellion is not one of the well-known battles in Australian History and to this end the story gives the reader a powerful insight into the desperation faced by the oppressed.
Kathryn Beilby

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