Ned Kelly went to school for a year or two.
He had books and friends and fun.
But that all changed when his father died.
He became a widow’s son.
The family was poor. They had to move
To a farm that was nothing grand.
Ned soon learnt that those in charge
Took all the good, rich land.
Ned Kelly was born in the Victorian countryside, and grew up there much as many other boys of his time. He attended school, lived with his family. Then his father died. Ned was given a green sash when he rescued a boy from a swift-running creek. Already though, the police were often not far away. They pursued him when they thought him guilty of committing crimes, and sometimes even when they knew he hadn’t. He went to gaol at the age of sixteen for three years. Life was, he said, unfair. The police were corrupt, or drunk, or both and they were definitely not on the side of the poor. He retreated into the bush, wandering with his gang for a year, evading capture. The reward on his head eventually became too tempting and he was betrayed. In his final stand, at Glenrowan, he was injured and finally taken into custody. He was tried, convicted and hung. He was 25 years old. Illustrations are painterly and naïve, and accompanied by text set in an old-style newspaper type. Text size also varies throughout.
The ‘Meet the … ‘ series from Random House is non-fiction, where real characters from Australia’s history have their stories told in a narrative style. Ned Kelly was born into a poor Irish immigrant family, but life was fairly normal until his father was killed. Ned found himself living the life of an outlaw, partly by bad luck, then because he was angry with those who made and enforced the laws. He saw the inequality of life and of rules for the rich and for the poor. His story has become legend, but Meet Ned Kelly doesn’t set out to render him a saint, only to provide some of the background for the choices he makes. Ned’s story is told in rhyme that references bush ballads and takes the reader back to a time when stories were often told in ballad form – making them easier to share with others. Ned Kelly’s story is an iconic one, and readers will enjoy this introduction to his short and eventful life. Recommended for younger primary readers.
Meet Ned Kelly, Janeen Brian ill Matt Adams
Random House Australia 2013
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
Available from good bookstores or online.