We shouldn’t have wagged school, I know.
Not when our lessons were costing Mother threepence a week. But the whingeing started the minute the door of our slab hut fell off behind us. (Father was not very good at building huts.)
‘I don’t like it! I’m not going!’ That was Maudie. She had started school only four days ago. Already she’d decided that it wasn’t for her.
Tully was just plain cranky. He was missing Father, who had probably got himself lost again. Getting lost was something Father was good at.
Alberta is the oldest of three children in a family struggling for survival in the early days of white settlement in Australia. Father seems to be a bit of a dud in the providing-for-his-family department and Mother is the one who picks up the pieces. Alberta’s role is looking after her two younger siblings. On the day they decide to skip school they witness a failed coach raid by the famous Captain Blunderbolt. The occupants of the coach are initially frightened, but on witnessing Blunderbolt’s incompetence are moved sufficiently to offer donations. Meanwhile, the school bully is up to his usual tricks. Now he’s spreading a rumour that Alberta’s Father isn’t off trying to find gold, but is actually Blunderbolt. Each page includes colour illustrations often with headers and footers to break up the text.
The Mates series from Omnibus delivers short chapter books for newly independent readers. Each includes an iconic Australian story. All include a delightful dose of Aussie humour. Captain Blunderbolt introduces a new generation to our colonial history in a light-handed and informative manner. History can be dry and dull, but in the Mates format, it is anything but. Each offering opens the way for discussion about life in Australia, with all its joys and challenges. In Captain Blunderbolt the reader discovers that life was tough for settler families, with fathers needing to go away from home to find work. It also opens the discussion about the rich and the not-so-rich, and the inherent inequalities that can come with it. A particularly welcome aspect is the reference to Mother’s practical capabilities. As with all the offerings in the Mates series, readers will come for the humour, stay for the story and come away with more understanding of the rich Australian culture we all share. Recommended for newly emergent readers.
Captain Blunderbolt , Carol Ann Martin & Loren Morris
Omnibus Books 2011
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.