Young Caroline Jones tucked a auburn curl behind one ear and arranged a chain of tiny wooden dolls on the windowsill of her family’s front room. Her tongue played at the corner of her mouth in concentration. Outside the window, faded roses crowded the sill. Through the petals, Caroline caught a glimpse of her father, William Jones, working in the garden.
Caroline caught sight of her father sprinting across the yard towards two local men who were lifting a wounded soldier from the carriage. The soldier had a rickety old crutch splayed at his side, and as her father helped lift him the soldier’s face twisted with pain. One of his legs was missing.
Caroline Chisholm was born into a large, loving and socially liberal family in England in the early 1800s. From an early age, she was aware that life was different for many other people. She developed a keen interest in travel, but also in guiding those who she was sure with a little help could improve their own lives. Her work started on a small scale, helping her mother support families around their home. After she married, she lived in India for a while before travelling to Australia. There, as in India, she found girls and women who lacked the skills necessary to gain meaningful work. For a year, she helped train and place women in towns and regions around Sydney. But her work broadened over time so that she could help more and more people. Her policies helped bring families to Australia. Most openings are accompanied by colour illustrations from Pat Reynolds.
‘Caroline Chisholm: The Emigrant’s Friend’ is a new offering in the Aussie Heroes series from New Frontier Publishing. Each showcases an influential Australian, who may or may not be well known to a present generation of young readers. ‘Caroline Chisholm’ introduces the child Caroline, showing the foundations that led to her adult work. A time line at the end of the book provides the ‘facts and figures’ allowing the narrative to read like a story without being bogged down with numbers. The narrative mixes non-fiction with fiction, providing a warm introduction to a character who has sometimes polarised historians. There are hooks here that will encourage further research and exploration. Recommended for mid-primary readers.
Caroline Chisholm: The Emigrant’s Friend, Tania McCartney ill Pat Reynolds
New Frontier Publishing ISBN: 9781921928482
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author