Professor Fred Hollows by Hazel Edwards

cover image

New Frontier Publishing, 2012. ISBN 9781921042751.
(Age 7+) According to the Macquarie dictionary, a hero is 'a person of distinguished courage or performance'. Professor Fred Hollows qualified on both counts and is a fitting subject for a series about 'Aussie heroes'. He used his skills as an ophthalmologist to treat people around the world, and refused to accept that the cost of medical treatment should deny anyone the gift of sight.
Hazel Edwards is an experienced and able story teller. In her biography, the issues that drove Fred Hollows are as apparent as the course of his extraordinary life. Technical information is interwoven with the story, so that readers are aware of major eye diseases and the medical procedures used to alleviate or cure them. With the glossary incorporated into the text, its absence at the end of the book is not noticed. The story is driven along in a conventional manner. Each compact chapter has a well-defined purpose and each paragraph begins with a topic sentence. The author's use of these techniques reminds us why they are so effective in historical narrative.
One drawback to 'heroic' history is that its subjects can seem one dimensional. Hazel Edwards has avoided this pitfall by mentioning some of Fred Hollows' idiosyncrasies, without being judgmental or detracting from his achievements. She has also emphasised that Fred and Gabi Hollows were partners in work as well as in life, and has ended the story with Gabi's tireless efforts to continue her husband's legacy.
The large font, clear, explicit writing style and timeline, make this text suitable as a story for younger children and as a source of information for older primary students. While the illustrations are realistic and sympathetic, the absence of an index and photographs gives the book the appearance of an unassuming reading text rather than a work of non-fiction. Any student or teacher, who is unaware of the value of Hazel Edward's biography, could miss an opportunity to learn about the life's work of a true 'Aussie hero'.
Elizabeth Bor