I have just spent a delightful forty-five minutes reading the children’s book “My Place”. Winner of many awards in its home continent of Australia, it is fully worthy of all of them. What a joy and pleasure it was!
The bookspans two centuries, from 1788 to 1988, and covers the same quarter acre of land– as we see how it has changed throughout this period. This is done via the voices of the children living there, and we visit them in 10-yearly intervals to learn about their lives and situations. The book travels backwards through time.
Without being overbearing, each write up has hooks which position the children strongly in the era being described....
Sofia in 1968 has photographs of Paul McCartney all over her bedroom wall, because he is her favourite Beatle.
Col, in 1938, has the experience of seeing a neighbour getting evicted during the Great Depression.
Bridie, in 1928 and with much excitement,sees the arrival of electricity in her house.
Bertie, in 1918, has a brother who has lost a leg due to the War.
Benjamin, in 1858 was actually born in San Francisco.His family came here because of the gold rush.
Whilhemina in 1828, has a dad who used to be a convict, but he is now in charge of convicts himself, and runs a farm.
Sam, in 1798, is an eleven year old convict, sent to Australia from England for stealing a jacket because he was cold. He works for Mr. Owen, who sometimes beats him.
And finally, we go back to Barangaroo, in 1788, who is staying here with his Aborigine tribe.
These brief synopses do nothing to impart the warmth, charm and humour of these write ups….
Besides each child telling their wonderful stories, they also do a map of what the land looks like whilst they are living there, and thus - because we are going backwards - we see an unravellingof progress;as the landscape changes froma modern built-up townscape, through to farm land, and finally back to the wilderness of the aborigines. The one thing that stays constant is a much loved old fig tree.
I challenge any child to read this without wanting to make a map of their own environment. The maps are so individual and personal. You really feel they have been done by each of the children described - again they are full of charm, and usually dotted with idiosyncratic little notes.
This illustrations throughout the book are wonderful – I think done in pastels, vibrant and full of character. They augment the writing beautifully. At the bottom of the page shown below you can see one of the maps...
For anyone with young children, especially if you want them to learn a bit about Australia, this is a cracking read. It really brings Australian history to life.
Book tags: place, epub, download, epub, nadia wheatley