Peacetime for Alice by Davina Bell
Ill. by Lucia Masciullo. Penguin, 2012. ISBN 9780 143306 32 0
(Ages 9+) Recommended. Our Australian Girl series. Australian History. The story of Alice continues with the men returning home from World War One. Some people in Australia have had to contend with the Spanish Flu, and many people's futures are thwarted by circumstances of war. Alice's brother, Teddy has returned a shattered, melancholic man, unable to communicate, listless and withdrawn, Alice's mother has survived the Spanish Flu, Alice has returned to ballet, encouraged by her teacher Miss Lillibet who has been released from the internment camp.
The background to this story is a strong reminder of events during and post WW1, and their impact on the lives of ordinary families. This particular series of books about Alice in the Our Australian Girl series, has far more characters than the other books giving a story more of a whole family rather than just one girl, and it is the better for it. The family story is fascinating, the members of the family diverse and evocative of the trials of many families after the war. While Alice's story itself is not as engaging as some of the others in this series, the background more than makes up for this, as the snippets of how the family is coping becomes increasingly more interesting than Alice's trials. Set in Perth adds a different dimension as well, as familiar places are given as the backdrop to Alice and her family as they recover their equanimity.
As so many of our novels for children are set in the eastern states, this comes as a pleasant reminder that life exists outside Sydney and Melbourne. This series of handsomely produced books with their signature covers, pages of background information of the life and times under discussion, a map and diagrams, along with a few illustrations, is wonderfully supported with a website which has teacher notes, fun things to do, extra information about the novels as well as many other resources to add to the interest when they are being read or being looked at as a class set.