As many of my readers would have deduced Australian History is my passion, and Australian History for children makes my heart go pit-a-pat. The ‘cream of the crop’ I’ve thus far discovered are the ‘John’ trilogy by Doris Chadwick. Alas as with many quality books they are out of print:( it is the very lucky person to find one as they are hideously expensive (@$200!)
*This post is dedicated to Jenn who asked for more details.
The series is based on actual events that occurred during the beginning of the English occupation of Australia. Following the adventures of a young boy, John and his sister Sue we learn early Australian history effortlessly, the sign of true living history. I suspect the author has based the books upon The Diary of Watkin Tench written by a marine stationed in Australia in 1788, adapting the horrific for young minds. Whilst the subject of convicts is indeed glossed over it, this makes the novels suitable to read to a five year old (and older).
In “John of the Sirius”, we are introduced to John and Sue, who depart from England for Australia on the ‘First Fleet‘! John’s father is a Captain of the Marines and the children belong to the small group of marine’s children who emigrated to Australia. Along the journey we learn of life on a ship, the diet and monotony. We ‘visit’ the various places the First fleet ‘put into’ on the long voyage to Botany Bay. John always manages to become involved in adventures. The book concludes with the Fleet’s arrival in Australia and the raising of the flag in Sydney Cove, 26th January 1788.
In the sequel “John of Sydney Cove” we immediately follow on from the first book. This is the story of the first settlement, a very hard existence although John still has time for adventures. Issues such as convicts, chain gangs, starvation and hangings are mentioned but very sensitively. First settlers like James Ruse are ‘introduced’.
The third title “John of Nanbaree” is based 18 months after the First Fleet’s arrival, and the settlers and convicts are in desperate straits and awaiting for the supply ships from England.
Much to my grief I do not own this title:( it is on my watch list and ‘hope springs eternal’.