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