Nanberry had expected great warriors to come from such extraordinary canoes. But instead they had been poor strange creatures, small and hunched over, with pale, pinched faces.
The white ghosts chopped down trees. They built big huts. They lived in them all year, until they stank. Their women didn’t know how to fish and when they gathered oysters they threw away the flesh and kept only the shells.
Nanberry is fascinated when the white men arrive in Tumbalong (now known as Darling Harbour) in extraordinary boats, but incredulous at their inability to survive and to respect the land. But a year after their arrival, Nanberry’s whole family is struck down by a mysterious illness and Nanberry, fighting for his life, is taken in by the new colony’s doctor. Soon he is Nanberry White, the adopted son of Surgeon White. He is used as an interpreter and learns white men ways, but feels torn between his new life and the life and family he has loss.
Later Nanberry has a new brother – a white brother, born to the surgeon and his housekeeper. The story follows both brothers as they grow and learn in the fledgling colony.
Nanberry: Black Brother White is based on the true story of Nanberry, one of the first of the Eora people to live with the English settlers following colonisation. Told from differing third person viewpoints – chiefly that of Nanberry, but also the perspectives of the Surgeon, his two housekeepers and his younger adoptive brother Andrew – the book offers an insight into the times, exploring the impact of white settlement on the Aboriginal people, the difficulties faced by the settlers, and the growth of the colony. Mainly though it is Nanberry’s story based wherever possible on historical records, but fictionalised to make Nanberry an authentic character with whom readers can connect.
Suitable for teens and for confident readers in upper primary school, Nanberry: Black Brother White is an outstanding read.
Nanberry: Black Brother White, by Jackie French
Angus & Robertson, an imprint of Harper Collins, 2011
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