Our Race for Reconciliation, by Anita Heiss

I hear Mum again, and almost wish I had a different name, like Cathy. And then I see her, my hero, Cathy Freeman. In my mind she is running gracefully on the track; she is smiling and isn’t even showing any effect of the heat of the sun. She’s breathing at the correct pace, not like me, panting away. And then I imagine I am her, turning my legs over in smooth rotation, faster and faster, focusing on the finish line, and before I know it, I’m there. I’ve overtaken the two girls who were ahead of me.

Mel Gordon loves to run. Her idol is Cathy Freeman, Australia’s best sprinter. Mel wants to be as good as Cathy one day – and represent Australia in the Olympics. First, though, she wants to see Cathy run at the Sydney Olympics, and win gold.

The year 2000 turns out to be a big one for Mel, as for many Australians. As well as the looming Olympics, a letter to Cathy Freeman leads to her promising to visit the school during Reconciliation Week. And before that, Mel’s family are planning a road trip to Sydney to take part in Corroboree 2000, a landmark march to celebrate Australia’s indigenous heritage, and push for reconciliation and, particularly, an apology for the stolen generation. Mel’s Nanna is a member of the Stolen Generation, making the march especially significant and, while Mel and her twin brother Sam love sport and school, there are times when they have to educate their non-Murri classmates about issues surrounding race and equality.

Part of Scholastic’s My Australian Story imprint, Our Race for Reconciliation explores major events of the turn of the millenium in Australia, with a special focus on the issue of Reconciliation, a topic which is always important in Australia, but is particularly significant in 2017, being the 50th anniversary year of the 1967 Referendum, which saw Australians vote for recognition of Aboriginal people. Mel’s story of wanting to emulate a role model is one which many children, from varied backgrounds, will connect with, and Heiss weaves the various issues and historical events into the story in a wonderful blend of entertainment and education.

A must-read for middle and upper primary children.

Our Race for Reconciliation, by Anita Heiss
Omnibus Books, 2017
ISBN 9781760276119

Boomerang and Bat, by Mark Greenwood & Terry Denton

One day he showed them a cricket bat and ball.
‘Wanna play a game?’ he asked.
Sundown and Tiger were willing and Mosquito said he’d give it a go.

When Aboriginal stockman Johnny Mullagh throws a ball back to the settlers playing a game of cricket, they invite him to join in. Soon Johnny, whose real name is Unaarrimin, is a skilled cricketer, spreading the game amongst his friends. When the team is invited to tour England, they are keen, but the Board for Protection of Aborigines says they can’t go. So Johnny and his friends sneak out of the country and head to England to take on the best, and delight crowds with their cricket prowess and their displays of boomerangs, spears and dance.

Boomerang and Bat tells the story of the real first eleven, the first Australian touring team. Greenwood’s text is informative but at the same time captures the emotion of the story, and Denton’s ink and watercolour illustrations bring both landscape and characters to life, capturing the times with detail which young readers will enjoy exploring.

Boomerang and Bat, by Mark Greenwood & Terry Denton
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781743319246

Knockabout Cricket: A Story of sporting legend – Johnny Mullagh by Neridah McMullin ill Ainsley Walters

It was 1865 and James was home from boarding school at Scotch College in Melbourne.
He wasn’t looking forward to another boring school holiday – it was shearing time at Pine Hills station and everyone was busy.

It was 1865 and James was home from boarding school at Scotch College in Melbourne. He wasn’t looking forward to another boring Image result for 9780992439736school holiday – it was shearing time at Pine Hills station and everyone was busy.

Pine Hills station was a squatters run in Western Victoria. A vast 30,000 acres; it ran sheep to grow wool. Pine Hills station played cricket against neighbouring stations at Mullagh Station, Longlands, Clunie, Miga Lake, Lake Wallace, Mount Talbot, Chetwynd and Bringalbert.

James, son of a prominent squatter family, is expecting his holidays to be boring as everyone is busy with shearing. But this holiday, he discovers, will be anything but boring. Playing cricket with the shearers when work is done for the day, he meets Unaarrimin of the Jardwadjali people (known as Johnny). Johnny is an amazing fielder with the ability to throw long distances. James invites Johnny to join their game, and teaches him batting and bowling techniques. As James tells the story of  Johnny’s first game, text boxes on each opening offer information about Johnny’s international career as a cricketer. There is also information about the aboriginal cricket team, beginning with the game they played against the MCC (Melbourne Cricket Club) at the MCG in 1866. Illustrations are naïve and depict a sun-drenched Western District grazing property and landscape. Final pages include a drawing and biography of Johnny, a summary of the positions on a cricket field and a bibliography.

Knockabout Cricket introduces early days of Australian cricket as well as squatter life in the 1860s. The dual texts have their own pace: the fictional narrative text takes place during a single cricket game, although the game continues long into the late afternoon. The text boxes cover a much broader and longer story about Johnny and Aboriginal cricketers and cricket in general. Young cricketers will enjoy the cricketing language throughout. There’s also the opportunity to learn a little about life on the land in the 1800s, and the history of cricket. The mix of fact and fiction allow ‘Knockabout Cricket’ to be accessible to a wide range of young readers. Recommended for early to mid-primary readers and beyond.

Knockabout Cricket: A Story of sporting legend – Johnny Mullagh, Neridah McMullin ill Ainsley Walters One Tree Hill 2015 ISBN: 9780992439736

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller


Burning the Bails: The Story of the Ashes, by Krista Bell & Ainsley Walters

When the ashes were ready, Russell put his hand in his pocket and pulled out one of his mother’s empty perfume bottles. It was porcelain and had two tiny handles.
‘How wonderful!’ laughed Miss Morphy. ‘It looks exactly like a miniature urn. Well done, Russell.’
‘This is perfect, darling,’ exclaimed his mother. ‘A real urn for our Rupertswood “Ashes”.’

When the touring English cricket team visits his family home in Rupertswood, Russell Clarke is delighted. He loves cricket and longs to be part of the fun. So when his mother and her companion decide to burn the bails from a match and present it to the English captain, Russell joins in by finding the perfect vessel for the ashes.

Burning the Bails is a fictionalised account of the true story behind the Ashes, the trophy for the cricket test series between Australia and England. While Russell’s involvement is imagined, the story is based on fact, and will give young cricket fans an insight into the origin and significance of the Ashes.

With the story supported by photographs, pages of historical facts, and the illustrative work of Ainsley Walters, and with the Ashes series currently being played in Australia, this is a wonderful offering for young cricketers.


Burning The Bails

Burning the Bails: The Story of the Ashes, by Krista Bell, illustrated by Ainsley Walters
One Day Hill, 2013
ISBN 978098731398

Available from good bookstores or

World Cricket Records 2011

Who is the only batsman to make three double centuries in a single test series?
Who holds the record for the most test wickets in a calendar year?
Against which opponents did Australia complete the largest victory by runs in the ICC Cricket World Cup?

In the midst of the cricket season and with the World Cup looming, World Cricket Records 2011 is sure to be devoured by young cricket mad readers. Packed with the answers to the above questions and hundreds of other facts and records, the book focuses on all aspects of cricket, including bowling batting and fielding records, and the different forms of the game from twenty-twenty matches to five day tests.

As well as tables of facts, there are text boxes recounting the events of specific games, and hundreds of photographs of cricket stars, both contemporary and historical.

Especially likely to appeal to upper primary aged boys, particularly those with a fascination for cricket.

World Cricket Records 2011

World Cricket Records 2011
Scholastic, 2010

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Cricket Australia’s Ashes Handbook

It was after Australia’s first win on English soil, in 1882, in the ninth meeting between the two countries, that the term ‘the ashes’ was used.
The result of the match was described as the greatest cricketing shock in England’s history. A few days after the match, a ‘fake’ obituary was printed in the Sproting Times, an English newspaper. A footnote at the bottom suggested ‘the body’ of English cricket ‘be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia’.
Before leaving England for the 1882-83 tour to Australia, England’s captain, Ivo Bligh, promised to bring back the ‘Ashes of English cricket’. He repeated his pledge on reaching Australia, and explained it to confused Aussies who had never read the Sporting Times. ‘The Ashes’ became part of the ‘talk’ about the tour.

Cricket Australia’s Ashes Handbook is subtitled ‘The Ultimate Guide for Young Cricketers’. And it’s full of facts and figures, perfect for the young cricket-lover. It begins with a history of the Ashes competition and highlights particularly memorable games. Then there are statistics, a favourite part of cricket. Highest scorers, best bowlers, heroes of the form are mentioned, and there’s plenty of trivia too. Then it’s down to business. Who will be picked in the team for this year? Some of the likely contenders are profiled and the reader is offered the opportunity to do their own selecting. There’s a schedule for all the games, and places to record the outcomes, wickets and scorers. And just to check you’ve been listening/reading, there’s a quiz. How much do you know about the Ashes? Ashes Handbook finishes up with pages to record your own cricketing statistics and resources for discovering more about cricket.

Perfect for cricket fans keen to keep track of the summer’s traditional game. Light enough to carry in your backpack.

Cricket Australia’s Ashes Handbook, John Origlasso,
Scholastic 2010
ISBN: 9781741697810

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author www.clairesaxby.com

A History of Cricket, by Catherine Chambers

Millions of people across the globe play the game and watch it for hours, days or even weeks at a time. They sweat under an Australian December sun, or shiver through cool English summers. Sometimes players run themselves ragged until the sun turns red in the sky. At other times, they hang around the outfield with the starry hope that they will make a match-winning catch.
So what is about this sport that makes it so popular? Why do athletes suffer these agonies and endure these conditions? Well, there is only one answer. Cricket just hast to be the mightiest, most noble game. The pinnacle of all physical, mental and emotional tests.

A History of Cricket is just that. It searches for the origins of the game in Egypt, Germany and India as well in Britain. It finds no definitive answer but introduces many possibilities. Was the game we now know as cricket once called ‘kegeling’ or Gilli-danda? A History of Cricket moves from these speculations to more verifiable facts in Britain and her colonies. The growth of cricket as a national and international sport is not without its setbacks, whether they be urbanisation, or civil war. It is a story of passionate players and advocates, of rules and endless statistics, of tea and tradition. It’s also a story of a game that continues to change in response to changing times and tastes. Cricket can be played anywhere from the backyard to the grandest playing field. Equipment ranges from plastic bats and tennis balls to the finest willow bat, helmets and safety gear. It is team sport, although personalities add colour to the games.

Cricket has enough rules to confound all but the most dedicated follower. And the rules are constantly changing. There are different rules for each form of the game. But it continues to garner support, and excite passion around the world. A History of Cricket looks at some of the reasons why. It speculates on the origin then moves to firmer ground with the facts and figures that only cricket could amass. Game greats are introduced and controversies examined. The birth of women’s cricket is documented, rules are outlined, warm-ups suggested. Rules are discussed, and of course statistics. There is something here for every young cricket fan, and perhaps for the parent who wants to share the passion.

A History of Cricket

A History of Cricket, Catherine Chambers
Black Dog Books 2009
ISBN: 9781742030586

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Hat Trick, by Brett Lee & Michael Panckridge

‘Okay. Here’s the equation. Listen up. Six balls to go. Nine runs to win. Can they do it? Jono, check your field. Toby, are you ready?’ he said to me.
Mr Pasquali was excited. Boy, does he love his cricket. He is our cricket coach, and our class teacher too. Everyone wanted Mr Pasquali as their class teacher. Even the Year 3s were talking about him and hoping that they’d get him when they got to Year 6. And if you were mad about cricket – like I was – then his class was the place to be. Mr Pasquali had a way of bringing cricket into most of the subjects we did.

Toby Jones is cricket mad. Luckily so is his father. And his teacher. Even his little sister, Natalie likes cricket, although she mostly plays sock cricket in the hall. A trip to the MCG introduces Toby and his friends to a little library full of cricketing books, including ‘Wisden Cricketers’ Almanacks’. Toby also meets Jim, a mysterious old man who introduces Toby to the wonders – and dangers – of time travel. With the help of Wisden and an old poem, Toby can travel back to any of the cricket games detailed in the books. As Toby learns more about time travel he and his team, Riverwall, begin the season’s play. Each chapter ends with a cricketing anecdote. While these do not related directly to the chapter they end, each reveals a statistic, a record, or conditions/circumstances of a particular game.

Hat Trick combines the first three Toby Jones time travel adventures into the one book. This makes it about as thick as a Wisden Almanack. Add to that cricketing tips from Brett Lee, Toby’s interview with Andrew Symonds, scorecards from several memorable cricket matches and the Riverwall season, and this is one heck of a book! Toby and his friends are in Year 6 and play in the Under 13 competition for Riverwall. Each title within Hat Trick tells part of Toby’s adventure with time travel. Other themes explored include the changing nature of friendship, competition and sportsmanship. Cricket fans will enjoy the blow-by-blow description of some of the local games and the revisiting of some of cricket’s most famous matches. The adventure moves quickly and although Toby is clearly the main character, other characters are given important roles to play and are fully realised. The three novels included here were initially released as individual titles: Toby Jones and the Magic Cricket Almanack (2003), Toby Jones and the Secret of the Missing Scorecard (2004), and Toby Jones and the Mystery of the Time-Travel Tour’(2005). There are two further titles in the Toby Jones series: Toby Jones and the Timeless Cricket Match, and Toby Jones and the Clash with Father Time.’ Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers, particularly cricket fans.

Hat Trick, Brett Lee & Michael Panckridge
Angus & Robertson 2008
ISBN: 9780732288372

I want to be a Cricketer, by Sally Carbon

‘Dad, watch this. When he pushes the helmet with his gloves all the sweat pours down his face.’
‘Oooh. that’s not pretty,’ says Dad. ‘Just goes to show he’s working hard even though he looks in control.’
‘Ahh. No way, Dad! He’s out!’
‘He was trying to be too cute down the leg side,’ explains the commentator. ‘Superb effort by India, Australia nine for 310.’
It’s going to be close, eight runs to get, one wicket in hand – but it should be okay, I reckon. I hope Australia wins this Test.
‘It’s bedtime Jase,’ calls Mum.
Dad and I ignore her. I reckon Dad will stick up for me here.

Jason is cricket mad. He sleeps with his cricket bat, he practises endlessly. For his ninth birthday he and his mates are going to watch the Australian team practice before the Third Test. He catches a ball missed by the fielders and the Australian player tells him he can keep it. The player also gives him some advice about how to become the best. Jason spots a tattoo on his inner arm but can’t quite make out all the words. The next few pages contain information about the history of cricket, the history of the Ashes competition and more. Turn the page and fast forward a few seasons. Jason is still playing cricket and playing a final practice game with the State squad before the team for the National Championships is selected. Jason’s enthusiasm for his game has not diminished at all. He’s worked out the meaning of the tattoo he saw on his ninth birthday and he still has that magic ball.

Cricket is a game that inspires great passion, in its players and its supporters. It is also a game with a rich history and a million different statistics! ‘I want to be a Cricketer’ blends fiction with plenty of facts. Each opening has a green inset oval the shape of a cricket ground with facts about cricket. Readers will learn who has the fastest (recorded) bowling speed; who was the first player to hit 100 sixes; which is the only sport more popular than cricket; why early cricket bats looked more like hockey sticks and much more. The front endpapers feature autographs of well-known cricketers, with plenty of space for more. The end end-papers show where in the world cricket is played. I want to be a Cricketer is endorsed by Cricket Australia. Recommended for cricket lovers of any age, but particularly mid- to upper-primary aged boys.

I want to be a Cricketer, Sally Carbon & Justin Langer, ill Stewart Gollan
Fremantle Press 2008
ISBN: 9781921361241

Chappelli Speaks Out, by Ashley Mallett with Ian Chappell

Ian Chappell was the captain of one of Australia’s best ever cricket teams – a team which included Dennis, Lillee, Geoff Walker, Max Walker and other great names of Australian cricket. He was also part of the players’ revolution which saw World Series cricket take off, and players earn professional incomes for the first time.

In Chappelli Speaks Out Chappell shares his memories and his opinions with Ashley Mallett, who was also a player under Chappell’s captaincy. The book traces Chappell’s career, from playing in the backyard with his brothers and father, to his retirement. He also offers his views on Australian and world cricket during and sicne his playing days, including his opinions on some of the big names of the game – Steve Waugh, Ian Botham, Richie Benaud and Don Bradman. Not all of his opinions are favourable, but they are frank and also reasoned – he explains why he feels as he feels.

This is an easy read, and will especially appeal to cricket fans.

Chappelli Speaks Out, by Ashley Mallett
Allen & Unwin, 2005