Almost one year ago I arrived in this colony on board an English transport. I am about to leave on board a French discovery ship…the Geographe…a journey I cannot fathom.
It is 1802 and fourteen year old Mary Beckwith is struggling to adjust to her new life. She and her mother have been transported for life to New South Wales, for stealing fabric. Assigned as nursemaid to a judge’s daughters, Mary tries hard to settle down and do her job, but it isn’t long before she falls foul of the lady of the house, and is sent to serve a French explorer, Nicholas Baudin, who is visiting the colony. Soon, Mary is travelling with the explorer, also crossing paths with Matthew Flinders as the two explorers make their Voyages of Discovery.
Convict Girl , part of the My Australian Story series, is a diary-format tale. As such we are offered insight into Mary’s thoughts and motivation, including her mixed feelings about what loyalty and honesty really mean. Set in the early days of the colony, readers are taken inside the life of the times, and issues such as the treatment of Aborigines and of convicts, as well as the journeys of the two famed explorers Baudin and Flinders.
A wonderfully accessible way to explore Australia’s history, the series is suitable for primary aged readers and younger teens.
Convict Girl , by Chrissie Michaels
Available from good bookstores and online .
Keeping low, the youth crept through the shadows of the nightcart lane. The afternoon was already curtaining into early darkness. He turned up his collar against the drizzling rain and came to a standstill. All in all he couldn’t have chosen a better hour to do his business.
Only a dozen paces across a bluestone yard kept Lonnie McGuiness from the door he planned to force. he fought the temptation to tear across. Hold on mate, he steadied himself, don’t be too foolhardy. Once he made a move, there’d be no turning back.
In the slums of Little Lon, Lonnie McGuiness dwells, desperate to make a difference to his own life and those of his friends, but often feeling that there is no way out. He’s no criminal, but he’ll do what it takes to see that justice prevails.
In Lonnie’s Shadow is excellent historical fiction. With each chapter being introduced by a listing for a historical artefact which then appears in some way within the chapter, so that buttons, brooches, pieces of glass and more are used to weave together the story.
Lonnie and his friends are likeable characters, struggling against the odds as street workers, stable hands, greengrocers and seamstresses, low paid youngsters from the poorest part of Melbourne. Yet they are generous, and able to look out for each other in times of trouble, even when troubled themselves. Teen and upper primary readers will enjoy the story and be intrigued by the differences between their own lives and those of the teen characters.
In Lonnie’s Shadow, by Chrissie Michaels
Ford St, 2010
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