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

Monday, 18 November 2013

Review: The Big Book of Australian History

Australia has a big history. A long history. A rich and convoluted history. Making sense of this history for children can be challenging but if anyone can do it well, it's the National Library of Australia.

Award-winning author Peter Macinnis has covered myriad topics in this tome-like book--packed with priceless information on our country's past and its people.

Beginning in ancient Australia and the formation of our landscape, we are taken through the age of the dinosaurs to The Dreaming--a time of land, legend and arguably the oldest surviving culture on earth--that of our Aboriginal (or First) people.

We are then introduced to early explorers, the mapping of Australia and the founding of British colonies, and then taken through the pivotal social and political upheavals and changes of that time, as well as the establishment of our major cities.

Exploration is covered next, with detailed yet clear information that children will fully engage in. Settling the land, the growth of cities, religions, transport and infrastructure, and of course, Federation is also showcased, along with immigration, welfare, Australia's part in the World Wars, and 20th Century advances in science, medicine and the arts that saw our country quickly become a world player.

There is a phenomenal amount of information in this book, with express detail on such issues as the Great Depression, conservation, Aboriginal rights, natural disasters, sporting achievements (of course!), embracing multiculturalism, and much more. Text is well-laid out with breakout blocks that catch the eye and make the content very accessible.

I can't even imagine the time and energy that went into coordinating and producing this book--a shining example of the stunning teamwork at the National Library.

What I love most about the book, beyond its overwhelming content, is its pictorial journey, with pages sharing imagery over the decades--all part of the National Library's impressive image collection. On one side of the page, we may have a portrait of Olympic swimming champion Fanny Durack from 1912, and the other, a modern day photograph of surfboats powering through the water at Bondi.

Strikingly designed and laid out, and meticulously edited by Stephanie Owen Reeder, this is a priceless addition for schools, and for kids (and adults!) all over Australia.

Title: The Big Book of Australian History
Author: Peter Macinnis
Publisher: National Library Publishing, $39.99 RRP
Publication Date: October 2013
Format: Hard cover
ISBN: 9780642278326
For ages: 8+
Type: History, Non Fiction

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