AWW2013 – Book 16
Children’s Historical Fiction
Library Book, Moreton Bay Regional Libraries
This is a really interesting ‘series’ (there are actually four groups of four books) for younger readers. Each series showcases one girl at a particular point of Australian history. I got the 1808 (Grace) and 1864 (Poppy) books out of the library first, so I read them before reading the 1841 (Letty) and 1900 (Rose) books – however, so far I’ve only read the first book in each of the series!
Meet Grace introduces us to Grace, a young ‘mudlark’ who scavenges for things to sell from the mud of the River Thames. She lives with her harsh and abusive uncle, but soon finds herself in trouble with the law when she steals apples to feed a starving horse. Before long she finds herself on the way to New South Wales, another convict being sent to a faraway town.
Grace lives in horrific conditions, and the book doesn’t shy away from how hard it could be for a young girl like her. I wonder whether some children, living in a country which expects them to study until they’re at least seventeen, would find Grace’s circumstances to be a bit unbelievable. She has a strong interest in horses, something which I am sure will come into play in later books, and is incredibly sympathetic to the people and animals which have it worse than her.
One of the things I really liked about these books, is that they’re clearly appropriate for younger years, but engaging and well written enough for all readers to enjoy. They’re short, with larger text, but the stories are rich – making them particularly good for children with reading difficulties. These would have been an absolute hit in my classroom, and I would have easily recommended them for a wide range of students. They’d also be great for reading aloud, getting students involved in the time period.