The kitchen door bursts open. A gust of wind lashes about the room and Sam enters, panting….
‘A ship’s hit the rocks down Calgardup, Mrs Bussell. The swell’s all strong there today, an’ people in the water – I can take the horse to help.’
‘Sam, saddle Smiler for me.’ Grace shakes the cake mixture from her hands. ‘I’ll ride with him,’ she says to her mother.
In 1876, sixteen year old Grace Bussell helped to rescue the passengers of the shipwrecked Georgette and was rightly labelled a hero. But her fellow rescuer, Sam Isaacs, an Aboriginal stockman, was all but forgotten in spite of his important role in saving the lives of passengers and crew. Now, in Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck, new author Michelle Gillespie hopes to right that wrong by celebrating the role both rescuers, and their horses, played in saving those aboard the Georgettefrom drowning.
In a fictionalised retelling of the events, Gillespie shares the story in accessible language and detail, capturing both the excitement and the terror of the day. The dark tone of the illustrations, by Sonia Martinez, provide an excellent complement to the dramatic nature, and seriousness, of the text. the endpapers are especially stunning – the opening one showing the ship steaming ahead of foreboding storm clouds, and the back of book showing the hip sinking beneath the waves. Back of book notes provide information about the sinking and rescue.
Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck, provides a wonderful glimpse at this little known piece of Western Australia’s maritime history.
Sam, Grace and the Shipwreck, by Michelle Gillespie, illustrated by Sonia Martinez
Fremantle Press, 2011
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