Seams of Gold, by Christopher Cheng

‘What’s this one? I asked him, lifting the small basket that was decorated with Chinese coins and tassels and beads.
‘Ah that special basket. Bring from China. My mother’s basket. To remind me where I come from, MaMa say. That basket for special sewing. For fine stitching. Someone maybe need torn clothes repaired or fine embroidery that need special threads and needles.”

Danny isn’t impressed when he has to go with his uncle to repair tents and clothes in the goldfields. He wants to tell his uncle that sewing is women’s work, but he knows that he has to respect his uncle and go with him anyway. Out on the goldfields, Danny sees the work his uncle does, and soon learns a new respect.

Seams of Gold shares the experience of a Chinese man and his nephew during the goldrush of the 1850s. Told from the first person point of view of Danny, the story provides a unique perspective on just one of the roles played by the Chinese people who worked on the goldfields, and touches on their treatment at the hands of white miners.

Part of the Making tracks series, Seams of Gold is suitable for readers aged 8 to 12.

Seams of Gold, by Christopher Cheng
National Museum of Australia Press, 2007

The Other Side, by Sally Morgan

Gramps disappeared into his room. He returned a few minutes later with a gumleaf attached to a long leather string.
‘Here, put this around your neck,’ he said.
‘Why would I want to do that, Gramps?’ asked Alex.
‘It’s so you’ll always have a piece of the bush with you.’
Reluctantly, Alex put the gumleaf over his head and tucked it under his T-shirt where no one could see it.

Alex’s grandfather is really embarrassing. He’s always protesting and campaigning to save things like whales and trees. Other grandparents do things like help with homework or buy them sweets, but Gramps is too busy thinking up new ways to embarrass Alex – at least that’s how it feels. So when Alex has to go and stay with Gramps for a few days, he isn’t impressed. What will Gramps get up to this time? But Alex is about to be surprised. Strange events lead him to a greater understanding of why Gramps does what he does.

The Other Side is a child’s view of activism and how fighting for environmental issues can make a difference. It also explores the history of Western Australia’s Rabbit Proof Fence from a unique perspective – when Alex unexpectedly finds himself inside the body of a joey for part of the story.

Part of the Making Tracks series of historical fiction for primary aged readers.

The Other Side, by Sally Morgan, illustrated by Teresa Culkin-Lawrence
National Museum of Australia Press, 2007

The Day I Was History, by Jackie French

It was like I’d been knocked flat even though I was standing up. It was like the bushfires were back again in my head, like they are in dreams sometimes. And this old lady, well, older than Mum anyway, came up and said, ‘Are you alright?’

When Sam and his family go to visit the National Museum, he doesn’t expect to find an exhibit that represents an event he himself was involved in. But there it is – a charred hubcap from a fire truck burnt in the Canberra fires in January, 2003. Suddenly, Sam is revisiting his memory of the terrible day when the fires came from the hills and Canberra burned.

The Day I Made History is a child character’s version of the events of those fires, told in Sam’s first person voice. Sam tells the story as he remembers it, but also enables the reader to understand what happened.

Part of the Making Tracks series, which brings history to life for primary aged readers, this offering has the added bonus of getting readers to consider what it is that makes an event history, dealing as it does with events which have happened within readers’ lifetimes.

The Day I Made History, by Jackie French
National Museum of Australia Press, 2007

A Penny to Remember, by Kirsty Murray

‘I want you to remember the best times we’ve had. You and me together.’
Hannah turned the coin over and gazed at it in wonder. Carefully etched into the metal was a picture of a boy and a girl, two small figures holding hands. They were dressed plainly, the boy in a jacket, the girl in a simple dress. In an arc above their heads were two words. Hannah recognised the letter ‘H’.

When George is sentenced to be transported to Van Diemen’s Land, his greatest heartache is being separated from his sister Hannah. But another convict suggests a token he can leave behind for Hannah to remember him by – a love token made from a penny. Soon, George is on his way to Van Diemen’s Land and Hannah is at home in England wearing the penny on a ribbon around her neck. Is there any hope that they’ll ever be together again?

A Penny to Remember is a short chapter book for primary school aged readers, bringing the convict era alive for young readers. Part of the Making Tracks series from the National Museum of Australia Press, the story focuses on two young protagonists and is told from their alternate viewpoints in third person narrative.

The use of young characters and a real object from the museum’s collection helps to make Australian history accessible to young readers.

A Penny to Remember, by Kirsty Murray
National Museum of Australia Press, 2007

River Boy, by Anthony Hill

Nat still couldn’t believe it. Even after three days steaming down the river, he’d wake cramped in his blanket in the dank, narrow prow, thinking he was still on the farm. Only when he’d felt the boat nudging the bank where they’d tied up for the night, did Nat remember. It wasn’t Uncle Silas but a deckhand, Sloppy Joe, snoring beside him.

Nat has always dreamt of working on one of the river boats, but when his chance finally comes, he is surprised how easy it is. A desperate captain offers him work on the paddle steamer Lorelei and soon Nat is one of the crew. But Nat has a secret – he can’t swim. When the boat makes the return journey towing a barge in stormy conditions, Nat’s secret could put his life at risk.

River Boy is a historical novel for primary school readers, set on the Murray River in the 1870s. It is one of eight titles to date in the Making Tracks series from the National Museum of Australia Press, a series of stories inspired by objects from the Museum’s collection.

An exciting read.

River Boy, by Anthony Hill
National Museum of Australia Press, 2006

Caravan Kids, by Libby Hathorn

So Sally and the family were off on a caravan holiday in Pinky. ‘Five Run Off to Adventure’ she said as they whizzed up the coastline in the almost-new cream Holden. This was the title of one of her favourite books by Enid Blyton.
‘Five Land at Palm Beach!’ Dad announced as they drove into the camping ground.
‘Palmie,’ Mum said. ‘Glorious!’
Adventure!’ Sally thought. ‘At last!’
‘Boys!’ Del thought. ‘Neat!’
‘New mates!’ Carl thought. ‘Terrific!’
They all said, ‘Fabulous!’

Things haven’t been going well for the Smyth family, but when Dad wins a caravan in a raffle, things begin to look up. Soon the family is off on a summer holiday in Palm Beach. Sally Smyth is desperately hoping for some adventure – just like her favourite characters in the Enid Blyton books.

Sally hopes for pirate ships or a beach rescue, but the holiday slips by with no dramas in sight. Until she goes off alone one evening and has a fall. Is this going to be more adventure than Sally can handle?

Caravan Kids is part of the Making Tracks series from the National Museum of Australia Press. Set in the late 1950s, the story provides a slice of life in the time period, as well as a fun adventure.

This series is an important one, with a focus on different time periods in Australian history. Each story is based around one object from the National Museum – in this case a Propert caravan.

Good stuff.

Caravan Kids, by Libby Hathorn
National Museum of Australia Press, 2006

The Hold-up Heroes, by Dianne Bates

In a soft voice – and no doubt with a smile on his face – Captain Scarlet replied, ‘The Governor. We will kidnap the Governor and hold him for ransom.’
There was silence as the men grappled to understand, and then we heard:
‘Surely you don’t mean the Governor of New South Wales, Captain?’
‘That’s the one, all right.’

When Polly and James overhear bushrangers plotting to kidnap the Governor, they know they must stop it from happening. But when they race home to tell their parents, they realise their father might be helping the bushrangers. They need to stop him from turning to crime, and foil the plans to kidnap the Governor. But how?

The Hold-up Heroes is a historical fiction offering for junior primary aged readers. Set in the times of bushrangers, it offers a glimpse at this fascinating period of history. Part of the Making Tracks series from the National Museum of Australia Press, this illustrated chapter book is perfect for classroom reading, but just as appealing for private perusal.


The Hold-up Heroes, by Dianne Bates, illustrated by Kathryn Wright
National Museum of Australia Press, 2006

Across the Dark Sea, by Wendy Orr

The half-moon came out, its crescent of light shining in the calm sea.
It shone on the soldiers who burst out of the woods, and on the sampans racing up the river to hide.
It shone on the shore where Ma waited with Mai, while the fishing boat with Ba and Trung sailed out to cross the sea to Australia, 6000 kilometres away.

It is 1978. Trung, his sister Mai and their mother live together in Vietnam. Their father has been in prison for two years, because he was a doctor for the army that lost the war. In the dead of night Trung, Mai and Ma make their way to the beach where they are briefly reunited with Ba. Then, in the mad rush to get aboard boats which are their chance to leave Vietnam, the family is separated – Trung and Ba make it aboard, but Ma and Mai have been left behind.

After a long and dreadful journey, Trung and his father arrive in Australia, where they begin their new life, but both of them have challenges to face, living in a strange country with a strange language. The biggest challenge of all is missing those they left behind.

Across the Dark Sea is a junior novel which shares one boy’s story of coming to Australia as a refugee. Because the issue is humanised through the endearing character of Trung, children will be able to better understand some of the challenges both of getting to Australia and of building a new life here.

Making Tracks is a new series of junior novels produced by the National Museum of Australia Press, presenting history to primary school aged children through accessible stories. Each story is written by a well known Australian author, and based around an artefact from the National Museum’s collection.

A wonderful little book.

Across the Dark Sea, by Wendy Orr
National Museum of Australia Press, 2006

One Perfect Day, by Jackie French

May 9, 1927 didn’t start as a perfect day. Not for Billy.
‘Rise and shine!’ yelled Mr Cuddy. ‘Blast the boy, he’d sleep through a mob of emus galloping through the butter! Billy!’
‘Coming Mr Cuddy!’ Billy rolled over on the potato sacks in the sleep-out, waking Dusty beside him.

Life is hard for Billy, an orphan who has been sent to work on a farm near Canberra. He works long hours, doesn’t get enough to eat, and can’t keep warm. But when he hears that Mr Cuddy, the farmer, is going to shoot Dusty, the dog who is Billy’s only friend, Billy knows life could get much worse. He has until sun-down to find a new home for Dusty.

It is the opening day of the new Parliament House, and there is plenty of traffic heading for Canberra. Perhaps Billy can find someone to take Dusty home. When he finds a car broken down at the side of the road, he ends up with more than that.

One Perfect Day is a junior novel about friendship and loyalty, set amidst the events of the commissioning of the original Parliament House in Canberra. Part of the Making Tracks series, published by The National Museum of Australia Press, One Perfect Day is an easy to read offering, with plenty of interest for young readers. Kids will love the surprise ending and be fascinated by the old motor cars which feature heavily in the story.

One Perfect Day, by Jackie French
National Museum of Australia Press, 2006

Ray's Olympics, by Libby Gleeson

‘Pipe down, you two.’ Dad looked from one to the other. ‘There’ll be no television in this house. It’s one more thing for the rich. You can get what you need to know from the papers and the radio.’
‘Can we watch it down the street like everyone else?’ Jane pushed her seat back and started to stack the plates.
‘If you must,’ said Dad. ‘But don’t go getting any ideas.’

There are two big events happening in Melbourne – the arrival of television and the staging of the 1956 Olympics. Ray’s family don’t have a television and they haven’t got tickets to any Olympic events either, so it looks like he’ll miss out completely. But when he lies to the school bullies that his cousin is working for the television crew filming the games, he has to find a way to prove it.

Ray’s Olympics is a junior historical fiction title aimed at middle primary readers. As well as focussing on an important part of Australia’s history, it is a fun, easy to read story, engaging young readers in the period when television was broadcast in black and white and most families could not afford to own their own set.

Ray’s Olympics is part of the new Making Tracks series, where each author is allocated a specific exhibit from the National Museum’s collection. In this case, the item was the van used for the first ABC-TV broadcast in 1956, which is now housed at the National Museum.

This title, and the series of which it is part, provides a really accessible means for engaging young readers in important periods of Australia’s history, as well as being simply a good read.

Ray’s Olympics, by Libby Gleeson
National Museum of Australia Press, 2006