Ned Kelly's Secret, by Sophie Masson

At that moment, a man stepped out of the bush and all other thoughts fled my head at once.
Short, bearded, middle-aged, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and good clothes with too-large boots, he could have looked like any other traveller. That is, if you ignored the pistols in his belt and the double-barrelled shotgun he was levelling at us.

Hugo is new to Australia, travelling with his French father in search of exciting stories of the gold rush. But before they reach the gold fields they unwittingly become part of a story themselves, when they are held up by the bushranger Harry Power. Afterwards, Hugo’s father decides that the story of the bushrangers is a far more exciting one, and the pair decide to spend some time in Benalla.

When Hugo defends a girl against the tirades of a shopkeeper, he makes some unexepected friends, particularly the girl’s brother, the friendly and fiercely loyal Ned Kelly. Hugo is upset at the poor treatment and judgement levelled at the Kellys, especially Ned, but as their friendship grows he learns more about Ned Kelly’s secrets.

Ned Kelly’s Secret is an absorbing historical tale for upper primary aged readers. Telling just a small part of Ned Kelly’s story through the eyes of a visitor to the country, who nonetheless finds common ground with the young Ned, provides a unique version of events. The story also provides a glimpse at the history of the times, with attention given t travel, landscape and social structure in a way which informs without overtly seeming to do so. Likely to appeal to ages 10 and up.

Ned Kelly's Secret

Ned Kelly’s Secret, by Sophie Masson
Scholastic, 2012
ISBN 9781742830322

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereveiws.

The Hunt for Ned Kelly, by Sophie Masson

I do not think that anyone alive in our time will ever forget Ned Kelly. I know I never shall. Was he a hero? Was he a villain? I cannot say, even now. But he will live in my memory forever, the dark and the bright, together.

It is 1879 and 12 year old Jamie Ross and his older sister Ellen are travelling through Victoria. The Kelly Gang is on the roam, but Jamie and Ellen are not afraid. Rather, Ellen is hoping to have the opportunity to photograph them and make her fortune.

But their encounters with the Kelly’s and their supporters are not as they expect, and when the chance to take the photo arises, the chance to make money is no longer as exciting as it seems.

The Hunt for Ned Kelly is a diary format story exploring the life and times of Ned Kelly through the experiences of a child character. Like other titles in the My Australian Story series, the story combines fiction with history to give young readers a personal experience of this piece of history.

The Hunt for Ned Kelly will appeal to upper primary aged readers.

The Hunt for Ned Kelly (My Australian Story)

The Hunt for Ned Kelly (My Australian Story), by Sophie Masson
Scholastic, 2010

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

Ned Kelly's Last Days, by Alex C. Castles and Jennifer Castles

When Ned Kelly was captured after the Glenrowan siege in 1880, the colony of Victoria was united in its belief that he must be executed. Whatever modern Australians may feel, at the time of his capture, Ned was considered an Outlaw. He had been involved in violent thefts, the killing of policemen, the taking of hostages and an attempt to derail a train. He was both feared and hated, and few believed that he should not hang.

In the weeks that followed his capture, however, a questionable chain of events occurred. Whilst Ned was kept isolated in gaol, there were political manoeuvrings, blatant cover ups and high-level corruption being used to ensure he would hang. When that hanging took place, few Victorians realised that the legality of that execution was questionable, to say the least.

Ned Kelly’s Last Days is more than just another book about Ned Kelly. Whilst giving plenty of insight into Kelly and those around him in his last days, its real focus is on exposing the questionable judicial processes of the time and the way those in power were able to manoeuvre the process to achieve the desired outcome. Author Alex C. Castles (who, sadly, passed away before the book was published) was not focussed on whether or not Ned was guilty, but on the way ‘justice’ was served.

This is a fascinating read for anyone with an interest in Australian history or law.

Ned Kelly’s Last Days, by Alex C. Castles & Jennifer Castles
Allen & Unwin, 2005

Black Snake, by Carole Wilkinson

Ned Kelly was only 25 years old when he died. Yet within his short life he came to prominence as a thief, a bank robber and murderer. In the one hundred and twenty two years since his death, he has been portrayed in books, films and in art. Why has he remained such a prominent figure in Australia’s history?

Black Snake: The Daring of Ned Kelly offers insight into the life of the outlaw and the chain of events which led to his hanging. In clear, easy to understand language, author Carole Wilkinson recounts Kelly’s life from birth to his final moments. She details his criminal activities and his life on the run, his family connections and his friendships, giving the reader a detailed idea of the man and his motives.

Each chapter opens with a fictionalised recount from one of the characters present at the various events in Ned’s life, and the text is supported by archival photographs, press clippings and quotes from correspondence and other documents.

This is not a glorification of a criminal career – it is instead a historical exploration of the man who was Ned Kelly, and an exploration of why he chose to lead the life he did. Wilkinson challenges the reader to make their own decision whther Kelly was a villain or a hero, a rebel or simply misunderstood.

Author Carole Wilkinson was born in England and came to Australia as a teenager. Writing about history is her passion. Her other titles include the Ramose series, set in Ancient Egypt.

Black Snake: The Daring of Ned Kelly, by Carole Wilkinson
Black Dog Books, 2002