It was 1865 and James was home from boarding school at Scotch College in Melbourne.
He wasn’t looking forward to another boring school holiday – it was shearing time at Pine Hills station and everyone was busy.
It was 1865 and James was home from boarding school at Scotch College in Melbourne. He wasn’t looking forward to another boring school holiday – it was shearing time at Pine Hills station and everyone was busy.
Pine Hills station was a squatters run in Western Victoria. A vast 30,000 acres; it ran sheep to grow wool. Pine Hills station played cricket against neighbouring stations at Mullagh Station, Longlands, Clunie, Miga Lake, Lake Wallace, Mount Talbot, Chetwynd and Bringalbert.
James, son of a prominent squatter family, is expecting his holidays to be boring as everyone is busy with shearing. But this holiday, he discovers, will be anything but boring. Playing cricket with the shearers when work is done for the day, he meets Unaarrimin of the Jardwadjali people (known as Johnny). Johnny is an amazing fielder with the ability to throw long distances. James invites Johnny to join their game, and teaches him batting and bowling techniques. As James tells the story of Johnny’s first game, text boxes on each opening offer information about Johnny’s international career as a cricketer. There is also information about the aboriginal cricket team, beginning with the game they played against the MCC (Melbourne Cricket Club) at the MCG in 1866. Illustrations are naïve and depict a sun-drenched Western District grazing property and landscape. Final pages include a drawing and biography of Johnny, a summary of the positions on a cricket field and a bibliography.
Knockabout Cricket introduces early days of Australian cricket as well as squatter life in the 1860s. The dual texts have their own pace: the fictional narrative text takes place during a single cricket game, although the game continues long into the late afternoon. The text boxes cover a much broader and longer story about Johnny and Aboriginal cricketers and cricket in general. Young cricketers will enjoy the cricketing language throughout. There’s also the opportunity to learn a little about life on the land in the 1800s, and the history of cricket. The mix of fact and fiction allow ‘Knockabout Cricket’ to be accessible to a wide range of young readers. Recommended for early to mid-primary readers and beyond.
Knockabout Cricket: A Story of sporting legend – Johnny Mullagh, Neridah McMullin ill Ainsley Walters One Tree Hill 2015 ISBN: 9780992439736
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
When the ashes were ready, Russell put his hand in his pocket and pulled out one of his mother’s empty perfume bottles. It was porcelain and had two tiny handles.
‘How wonderful!’ laughed Miss Morphy. ‘It looks exactly like a miniature urn. Well done, Russell.’
‘This is perfect, darling,’ exclaimed his mother. ‘A real urn for our Rupertswood “Ashes”.’
When the touring English cricket team visits his family home in Rupertswood, Russell Clarke is delighted. He loves cricket and longs to be part of the fun. So when his mother and her companion decide to burn the bails from a match and present it to the English captain, Russell joins in by finding the perfect vessel for the ashes.
Burning the Bails is a fictionalised account of the true story behind the Ashes, the trophy for the cricket test series between Australia and England. While Russell’s involvement is imagined, the story is based on fact, and will give young cricket fans an insight into the origin and significance of the Ashes.
With the story supported by photographs, pages of historical facts, and the illustrative work of Ainsley Walters, and with the Ashes series currently being played in Australia, this is a wonderful offering for young cricketers.
Burning the Bails: The Story of the Ashes, by Krista Bell, illustrated by Ainsley Walters
One Day Hill, 2013
Available from good bookstores or
‘Archie’s Letter’ is the story of an ordinary man, his experience at war, and his living beyond it. As a small child, he witnesses a soldier’s return from WWI. He cannot possibly understand it, but the image stays with him.
Archie grew up in the country beside a railway siding in Tasmania. When he was four years old, he saw a young man in uniform step of a train and fall to the platform weeping. Archie watched and wondered why a grown man would cry. The year was 1918. The young man was a soldier just home from the horrors of World War I.
Archie’s Letter is the story of an ordinary man, his experience at war, and his living beyond it. As a small child, he witnesses a soldier’s return from WWI. He cannot possibly understand it, but the image stays with him. He joins WWII because he believes strongly that the world cannot succumb to the will of Hitler. He fights initially in the Middle East before he is recalled to the Pacific to defend Australia. When the Japanese conquer the island of Java, Archie is imprisoned first in Java and then in Thailand where the Japanese oversaw the construction of the infamous Burma Railway. The treatment of the prisoners was appalling and many, many died. Survival for others was made possible by the Aussie sense of humour, and the leadership of Colonel Dunlop. Archie returned home, but the horrors of war came with him. Rather than share them with his family, he kept them to himself, only sharing funny stories. Paintings and/or photographs appear on every opening.
Archie’s Letter is written by a son wanting to understand and know his father. It is a very personal story, but also an Australian story. The soldiers and others who experienced active service WWII and survived are ageing now. So many of them, like Archie, chose not to share the horrors they witnessed and endured, but their silence means their stories may soon be lost. Horrible though the stories often are, it’s important that they be recorded and shared with new generations. There are also many inspiring stories of friendship and bravery, that should not be allowed to vanish. It is important to keep all the stories of where we’ve been, as they show us how we got here, and how we might go on from here. Recommended for upper-primary and early-secondary readers.
Archie’s Letter: An ANZAC Day Story, Martin Flanagan ill Ainsley
Walters One Hill Publishers 2012
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.