Tommy Bell: The gold escort gang by Jane Smith
Tommy Bell, bushranger boy series. Big Sky Publishing, 2017.
(Age: Middle and upper primary) Tommy Bell continues his time travel adventures in this third book of the Tommy Bell series, The gold escort gang. Tommy can use his magic hat to transport himself and his horse back to the colonial era. In the present time, Tommy is under pressure to support a friend who wants him to help steal a bike as a prank. Tommy wants to stay friendly but his moral compass knows it is wrong to steal.
In the past, he meets Ben Hall, who has not made good decisions during his life and has joined forces with the notorious bushranger Frank Gardiner and is now a wanted criminal. As the title suggests, Tommy becomes involved in a gold escort hold up and witnesses for himself the impact the crime has on innocent bystanders. It is easy to compare Tommy's dilemma about right and wrong with that of Ben Hall's choices and the effect it has had on his life and family.
Jane Smith tells an exciting story and her knowledge of the colonial era and bushrangers is evident. There is a comical situation where Tommy witnesses some of the bushrangers having a nude swim when they are interrupted by the police. This happened in real life, creating a humorous scene where the bushrangers had to run to their horses grabbing their clothes on the way. This is all explained in the historical notes at the end of the novel. There is also a 'Q and A' addition with Frank Gardiner.
The cover uses bold colours and has a feel of being printed due to the strong black outlines. The font for the chapter beginnings have a dated, colonial Australia feel and the page design resembles a poster.
These books would appeal to middle and upper primary students. They would be useful to read in conjunction with teaching the Australian Curriculum in history in the year 4, 5 years.