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

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Review: Lennie the Legend

Some stories are just made to be told, and some live with us long after reading, especially when they feature extraordinary characters who do extraordinary things. Things that both inspire and delight.

One such delightful inspiration is a nine-year-old called Lennie Gwyther.

Set at the height of the Great Depression, this story follows the journey of a young lad destined for adventure. After a horrid accident on the family farm, young Lennie is forced to take on more demanding roles (as was the lot of many children of his time). Using his pony, Ginger Mick, the lad takes on the family’s ploughing, and so saves the farm’s planting season.

As a reward, Lennie’s parents allow the young boy to ride all the way (yes, yes, on his own!) from their rural Victorian farm at Leongatha to Sydney, to witness the opening of the magnificent Sydney Harbour Bridge—a journey of 1,000 kilometres, via many and varied towns including Traralgon, Sale, Lakes Entrance, Cooma, Canberra, Moss Vale, Liverpool.

Along the way, this remarkable child meets with a lifetime of extraordinary experiences from a near-horse-napping to a bushfire encounter to meeting Prime Minister Joseph Lyons at Parliament House … and even appearing on a newsreel—something quite amazing for 1932.

Stephanie Owen Reeder has captured the voice and precociousness of this delightful boy in her thorough and meticulously-researched retelling of an adventure that captured a nation, during an immensely difficult time in Australian history. The author even spent time with Lennie’s sister, Beryl Ferrier, whose advice and insights on her brother and life in the 1930s, is woven infallibly into the book, providing goosebumping authenticity.

As is the way with National Library books, Lennie the Legend is beautifully produced, designed and laid out, using a stunning display of Collection images—paintings, photographs, maps—and the most precious images of Lennie and his family.

Along the way, peppered through the engaging narrative, readers can enjoy pockets of further information on such themes as the Great War, farming life in 1930s Australia, and The Great Depression. Photographs of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the process of being built will enchant children, as will this eye-widening peek at a time long past, and an event that won’t fail to astonish even the most jaded youngsters (and adults, too).

At the back of the book, parents, teachers and librarians will appreciate a glossary, background reading and an index.

This is such an inspiring tale—it’s a delight to know Australian stories like this are reaching the ears and eyes of our youngsters. It’s so very important, and this enchanting story will stay long in the heart of any reader, no matter their age.

Title: Lennie the Legend
Author: Stephanie Owen Reeder
Publisher: National Library Publishing, $24.99 RRP
Publication Date: 1 February 2015
Format: Hard cover with dust jacket
ISBN: 9780642278654
For ages: 7+
Type: Picture Book, History

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