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

Thursday 17 May 2018

Review: Never Lose Hope: The Story of Australia's First School

What a magnificent collection of work Mark Wilson has. He dedicates Never Lose Hope: The Story of Australia’s First School to his grandchildren. This outstanding book full of exquisite artwork draws the reader back to the convict days to again enjoy this important aspect of Australia’s early history.

The story is inspired by the life of John Hudson, an orphan, who at nine years old was the youngest convict on the First Fleet. He was sentenced and transported to the Port Jackson penal colony for stealing.

At Port Jackson, food is running out and John is shown kindness by the convict woman Isabella who teaches the children to read and write in their square of wetted sand. It is through her diary entries that we discover the state of the convicts; the lack of food that forces children to steal to stay alive; how few people cared about planting food, regardless of their hunger, and how harsh the soldiers were with the punishment they meted out.

But John is being sought by the soldiers for stealing some apples and is caught and sent to Norfolk Island. But in his heart as in the wood of the ship’s hold, he has carved the three words that Isabella taught him – Never Lose Hope!

It’s also the story of convict Isabella Rosson, the first teacher at Port Jackson. The chaplain Richard Johnson and his wife Mary supported her when she opened the first school. Her teachings helped the convicts live a better life through learning and literacy.

Beautifully constructed with evocative and realistic artwork depicting the lives of our convict forbearers, this gorgeous book is a collector’s dream and a priceless addition to any bookshelf.

Title: Never Lose Hope: The Story of Australia’s First School
Author/Illustrator: Mark Wilson
Publisher: Hachette, $26.99
Publication Date: April 2018
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780734416797
For ages: 7+
Type: Picture Book