Australia had changed before, but slowly – with hot, dry periods that lasted for years, decades, even thousands of years; with the slow spread of Indigenous nations across the continent, and the faster, but still gradual, spread of the colonisers after 1788.
Now everything seemed to speed up. So many changes had occurred in the US, the UK and Europe during the 1960s – all of them watched every night in Australian lounge rooms on the television news – that some people spoke of the 60s as a decade of social revolution. Different ways of thinking, new inventions and changing fashions still mostly came from overseas, but communications and travel brought information to Australians faster than every before. Once we had been at the end of the world. Now, with cheap plane tickets and TV, we no longer seemed so far away.
Booms, Busts and Bushfires is the eighth title in this ‘Fair Dinkum Histories’ series from Jackie French and Scholastic. The series started with Shipwreck, Sailors and 60,000 Years and ends with this newest title. Jackie French casts her net wide, to touch on a wide range of subjects from the liberal environment that founded the Nimbin communities, through weather extremes, to politics, economics, technology and Indigenous rights. Text boxes inserted throughout expand information where necessary. Peter Sheehan’s cartoon-like illustrations help to illustrate and lighten the text, although the tone is conversational and entertaining as well as informative. There are detailed Contents, Bibliography and Index pages for skimmers or re-readers keen to find particular information.
History is such a big topic that it’s hard to pin it down. Attempts to include everything must fail, because it is impossible to gather it all together. Particularly in books for children. Jackie French’s strength is surely in her ability to dance across the years landing lightly on events, minor and major. Social history is as important as politics in helping the world come alive to those who did not live it. Booms, Busts and Bushfires and the other titles in this series provide a tasting plate – enough of a look to get a broad sense of history, and enough details to encourage and support further reading. Peter Sheehan includes a wonderful series of caricatures of Australian Prime Ministers! Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers and beyond.
Booms, Busts and BushfiresJackie French, Peter Sheehan
Scholastic Press 2011
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
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