Wild bush days by Penny Harrison and Virginia Gray

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I love anything about Australia’s past and to read a book about an unknown bushranger and a woman at that, working in the twentieth century is amazing. Jessie Hickman worked as a cattle duffer and thief in what is now the Wollemi National Park part of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. Born in 1890, she trained as a circus performer, her horse riding skills well known and this riding ability stood her in good stead when she and her husband took to the hills.

Two children in this picture book walk over her trail through the hills, over brook and stream, through the craggy hills, searching for the cave where she held out. In lines begging to to be read aloud, we follow the children as they see the sights associated with Jessie, and her search for freedom.

The story winds its way around the hills, the children following her whispers, balancing on the logs over the creek just like Jessie did with her tightrope act, or threading their way through the undergrowth, the bracken grabbing at their knees. They hear her urge them forward, hear the hooves of the horses, aware that she is watching from the shadows.

Forgotten in history, she is now being given a place as two books and a picture book have been produced about her.

More information which will intrigue readers of all ages can be found here and here.

The sites carry photographs of Jessie and the cave in which she hid, the teapot now residing in a museum.

Themes: Bushrangers, Australia - history, Women, Circus, Wollemi National Park (NSW), Adventure.

Fran Knight