Riding With Thunderbolt, by Allan Baillie

Ben Cross has been orphaned by the smallpox epdiemic and he has come to live with his brutal uncle, who beats and abuses him. So when his mate Thommo suggests they run away and join the bushranger Thunderbolt, Ben feels he has nothing to lose.

For the next two years Ben travels with Thunderbolt’s gang and family. He befirends Thunderbolt’s wife, Mary and their two small children, helping with the chores of cooking and providing for the campsite. He acts as cockatoo (lookout) for the gang when they conduct their raids and hold-ups. At the same time, Ben experiences the highs and lows of the bushranging life. He sees his mate Thommo killed by a trooper during a shoot out, lives with the threat of being caught and imprisoned, and learns about friendship and loyalty.

Riding With Thunderbolt is part of the My Story series from Scholastic and, as such, is written in diary format in the voice of young Ben. Readers aged 10 and over will be drawn into the tale by this first person narrative which enables the author not to impose an opinion of the bushranger lifestyle, but rather to show its impact on one young life.

A good solid read from a reliable author.

My Story: Riding With Thunderbolt – the Diary of Ben Cross, by Allan Baillie
Scholastic, 2004

Fords and Flying Machines – The Diary of Jack McLaren

At 14, Jack McLaren leaves his parents and twin sister behind in Sydney as he heads north to Longreach in Queensland where he is apprenticed as a motor mechanic to his uncle George.

Not only does Jack get to spend his days working on engines, fulfilling his life’s dreams, but he soon has adventures he could never have dreamt of. Jack and George travel on the first automobile to drive the Gulf Track from Longreach to Katherine, accompanying two pilots who are surveying suitable airstrip sites for the great air race from England to Australia.

Snaking their way across the outback, encountering crocodiles and snakes, and contending with punctures, broken axles and breakdowns, Jack and his fellow travellers are sure there is a better way to travel these vast distances. The Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service is about to be born, and Jack has a front row seat.

Told in diary format, Fords and Flying Machines is part of the outstanding My Story series, from Scholastic. Author Patricia Bernard manages to explore not just the history of the period (1919-1921), but also the social issues of the time – class, unemployment, gender equality and more.

AN outstanding read for 10 to 14 year olds.

My Story: Fords and Flying Machines – The Diary of Jack McLaren, by Patricia Bernard
Scholastic, 2003

My Story – Who Am I?

“Matron Rose said I should write in you every day about all the things I do and stuff. And I do lots of things that I’m gunna tell you about.” So begins the diary of Mary Talence, aged 10, Sydney 1937.

Mary’s story, presented via her diary entries, begins at Bombaderry home for Aboriginal children. Mary has been living here since she was five, but remembers another home- with her Mum and Dad and lots of brothers and sisters. Mary likes her family at Bombaderry, including her best friend Marj, and the babies she looks after, but she still misses her Mum and wonders why she doesn’t come to visit.

Mary’s life changes again soon after the diary begins, when she is fostered by a white family. The diary follows her struggle to assimilate into the white society she finds herself living in. Mary is repeatedly told that to be Aboriginal is bad and that she must forget her past. To Mary this is incomprehensible.

Who Am I ? creates an awareness and understanding in young readers of the policies of protection and assimilation of Aborigines which were practiced in Australia until 1969. By using the intimate first person format of the diary, readers are given a first-hand experience of the emotional effects on the children from the ‘stolen generation’ of being removed from their families and stripped of their identities.

Who Am I? is part of Scholastic’s ongoing My Story series, presenting the stories of young people in different periods of Australian history. A quality read for readers aged 10 and over, and also suitable for study as an in class text.

My Story: Who Am I?, by Anita Heiss
Published by Scholastic Australia, 2001