'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 17 December 2009

Review: Aussie Legends

Title: Aussie Legends

Author: Tom Baddeley

Illustrator: Tracey Gibbs

Publisher: Fremantle Press, A$19.95

Format: Hardcover

Language: English

ISBN: 9781921361609

For ages: 8+

Type: Picture Book

About: Love a bit of Aussie nostalgia, me, and Australian books feature highly on the burgeoning children's book Wishlist in our house. Many are charming and whimsical, many are bright or funny, but less of them feature such fascinating and comprehensive information as Aussie Legends.

Perhaps it's because my children are getting older (or perhaps it's me who's getting older) but I'm loving this new book by Tom Baddeley - a historical snapshot of several famous (or infamous) Aussie legends who have helped colour the annuls of history in this great land of ours. As kids get older, it's so valuable to expose them to historical and cultural content - outside the school curriculum and without the boring bits, of course.

Where better to start than our most notorious baddie - Ned Kelly - the story of a man that well needs to be pulled from the dusty old coffers of history and spiced up on a plate of pressed tin. Was Kelly a hero or a villain and did his famed metal armour manage to halt the hail of bullets that claimed his friends?

We're also treated to a snapshot of some of our most famed explorers - Burke and Wills, whose 1860/61 expedition across the Blue Mountains paved the way for others to traverse this unthinkable route is covered in the book. Alas, it ended in tragedy.

Our most famed opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba gets the historical treatment next, followed by two of our greatest sporting heroes - cricketer Sir Donald Bradman and Aboriginal tennis star Evonne Goolagong Cawley. And what better way to round out our country's cultural splendour than with the magnificent Phar Lap - a racehorse whose oversized heart (at twice the normal size) still remains encased in glass at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Prefaced with maps to give readers some orientation, each chapter of Aussie Legends is a new adventure. Told in true and very Aussie rollicking rhyme, the educational nature of this book takes on an updated and rhythmic pace that children will enjoy and adults will enjoy reading out loud.

Illustrations by Tracey Gibbs are lustrous in colour and emotion - inked in a slightly abstract style - almost a modern Picasso/Frida Kahlo blend. Her striking wattle wallpaper patterns, scrumptious shadowing and choice of colour give this book the richness its content deserves.

Aussie Legends is a book all Australians will enjoy, and I for one, am already mulling over the next six Aussie icons Tom Baddeley will feature in the sequel (there will be a sequel, won't there Tom?). Our children need to stand up and be proud of the memorable historical figures we have produced in our few short centuries as a modern nation - thank you Tom for dragging them out of the library and plonking them into this beautiful new book.

Look out kids - history is about to get interesting!

Learn more about Aussie Legends at Fremantle Press.

Teacher's Notes

You can buy this book online:

The Nile - A$17.99
QBD - A$19.95
Buy Australian - A$17.76