Eat my dust! by Nerida McMullin and Lucia Masciullo

cover image

Two women, Jean Robertson and Kathleen Howell, set off from Perth in 1928 determined to beat the land speed record to Adelaide. It had only been set a few months before and many were scathing that it could be done again particularly not by women. But they did it coming in five hours ahead of schedule, and then setting off to Melbourne. They had covered the 2824 kms in two days, nine hours and 57 minutes.

Like many stories of women’s achievements, the tenacity shown by them fighting against blinkered ignorance and even hostility, will have quite an effect on the readers, used now to much greater equality than one hundred years ago. Seeing the women put down and derided, underlines the efforts such pioneers had on the rise of feminism and the gaining of equal rights.

This splendid picture book shows how dedicated they were, fitting out their Lancia Lambda with all their needs for such a trip. The book takes us on the journey with them as they leave Perth and travel east, stopping at several stations on the way where they were treated with welcome cups of tea. Keeping themselves awake proved to be a problem until they began to sing together as the miles rolled by. The hardships of such a drive into unknown territory is shown in all of its problems as they become stuck in mud or have a flat tyre. Alone, they had to solve the problems for themselves, so unlike the big car rallies today where the eyes of the world are on the teams, via satellite, mobile phone and the rest, help available in an instant. Theses two lone women then passed through Ceduna, and Port Augusta, finally making Adelaide where no one was waiting for them, because they were so early.

The beautiful watercolour illustrations will encourage the readers to feel that they are there on the trip between Perth and Adelaide. The scenery is breathtaking, spectacular and fascinating, with details of flora and fauna that people see on the way. Readers will watch out for the detail in the background and look closely at the condition of the tracks they are travelling on, while revelling in the images of the car and all it held for their trip.

A map at the start of the book shows their journey and at the end of the book is extra information about the two women alongside a wonderful drawing of the vehicle. 

This wonderful story evokes a world that is different from the one experienced by children today, and will give them a moment to think about how they would have coped with the journey these women made.

Themes: Journey, Australian history, Road trip, Challenges.

Fran Knight