Happy New Year to all our readers. I hope you had some wonderful books among your Christmas goodies.
As Australia Day is at the end of the month, I thought I’d look at some of the wonderful historical publications which we have, celebrating our history. I have chosen to focus on early settlement, on books I like, and have not checked whether they are currently in print, but if not many will be accessible through your local library.
The true story of JohnNicol, illustrated by Julian Bruere.
John Nicol’s sea adventures began in 1769 when he was aged 14 and included a trip to Australia on the Lady Julian (or Juliana), one of the Second Fleet convict ships, arriving in Sydney in 1890. This book includes some of Nicol’s own prose, taken from his very readable Life and Times … first published in 1822.
The mostly true storyof Matthew and Trim by Cassandra Golds and Stephen Axelson.
Trim was Matthew Flinders’ loved cat who accompanied him on some of his voyages. This is the remembered story of their adventures together as well as Trim’s adventures after Flinders was imprisoned by the French.
A penny to remember by Kirsty Murray
Young George is transported to Van Diemen’s Land while his sister stays in London working for the Dimples. Eventually this family decides to emigrate to Tasmania and George and Hannah are re-united.
Nanberry: Black brother white by Jackie FrenchThis is a novel of the first years of settlement of Sydney when the influx of new settlers, free and convict, bring with them diseases hitherto unknown to the Aborigines. The reader learns of the devastation they cause. It is the story of Nanberry adopted by Australia’s first surgeon, John White, and living with his white brother. Based on true stories.
The goat who sailed the world by Jackie French
Among the animals and humans on board James Cook’s ship, Endeavour, was a well-travelled goat and her young carer, Isaac Manley, who went on to bigger and better things. The goat gave the crew milk for the whole of their three year voyage but had already sailed around the world before she set off with cook.
Surviving Sydney Cove by Alexander Goldie
A diarised fictional account of one young girl’s life in Sydney during two months in 1790, a time when the colony was struggling to feed itself.
The First Fleet: A new beginning in an old land by John Nicholson
Full of fascinating facts and detailed drawings, as Nicholson’s books always are, The First Fleet is a great introduction for young readers. Do you know how many tools were taken, or how much food was allowed per person? Or how many children were on the various ships of the fleet? (There were 32). This book answers those questions.
Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park
This historical paranormal story focuses on Abigail who suddenly finds herself in the Sydney Rocks area of the 1870s, having to cope with all the changes from her life of 100 years later. An Australian classic.
The four books in this series tell the story of Grace after she is sent to Australia as a convict. [Editor's note: Find out about other authors and titles in the Our Australian girl series]
Fair dinkum histories by Jackie French
This is a series of six titles each looking at a different period in Australia’s past. They are full of facts and cartoon-style illustrations. A great jumping off point for further explorations.
And I have just scratched the surface. We could go on to later decades in Australia’s settlement: the bushrangers, the years of exploring the continent, Federation and Australia’s involvement in war. But, for this time, though, a focus on early settlement.
What Australian historical fiction do you enjoy?