Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunday Salon: Our Australian Girl - Grace

Last year, I saw a couple of posts on an Rebecca's Book Blog (an American blog which is kind of ironic in a way) talking about a new children's book series called Our Australian Girl.  After that I saw them mentioned on an Australian blog when the books were launched, and I was interested enough to see if I could track the books down. At the time there were four girls that we could meet, but since then another two girls have been added to the series. Today, I thought I would talk generally about the series, but then more specifically about the first girl, Grace.

The concept is that we meet a girl from a particular time in history and through a series of four books we get to follow her life. So far, the girls are:

Grace - a convict who is transported to Australia in 1808.
Letty - a free settler who is coming to Australia in 1841
Poppy - a young girl of Chinese/Aboriginal heritage who gets caught up in goldrush fever in 1864.
Rose - lives in Melbourne during the year that Australia became an official nation in 1901
Nellie - an Irish orphan who is sent to South Australia in 1849
Alice - a young girl with a passion for ballet who lives in Perth during the World War I (1918).

The publishers have done a fabulous job with the packaging of these books. Each cover features a photo of the girl, a charm bracelet where there is a charm for the year, the letter of the girl's name, the number of the book of the series, and then a charm that is relevant to the story within the books. Inside the book there are maps showing where the book is set, historical information from the time that the book is set in, as well as each author and the illustrator's Australian girl story, whether they were born here or if they immigrated to Australia. There is also additional content to be found at the associated website, including quizzes as well as additional information for teachers and parents.

Whilst I am not in the target range for these books, I love the way that the publisher has put this series together, and if I was a girl aged between 8 and 11, I am pretty sure that I would love these books! If you have a girl in your life who likes history, then these may well be a good gift idea for her!

In this video, we meet the girls who have been chosen to be the faces of  Our Australian Girls.









So let's meet Grace.







Grace is an orphan who lives with her uncle in the slums of London. He is a harsh guardian for Grace, and she has to work as a mudlark, looking for items of value in the mudflats at the edge of the Thames river. Like so many young girls through the ages, Grace is obsessed with horses. Visiting the horses nearby usually gives Grace great comfort, except when she thinks that they are also being mistreated. When she steals an apple from a nearby fruit stall to give to the horse, she is caught, spends time in prison and is eventually sentenced to be transported to Australia.

On board the ship, Grace faces harsh conditions, but she is lucky enough to make friends with Hannah and her mother Liza which helps her survive her time on board the boat.

Once she reaches Australia, she is sent to work on a farm in the country away from her new friends. There she meets the indigenous Aboriginal population as well as seeing the strange animals and flora that abound in the country. She likes her mistress but she is not sure that her master is pleased with her. Will her obsession with horses cause her trouble again, even though she is doing her best in difficult circumstances.

Grace is terrified that she will be sent back to the Factory (where the girls who haven't been employed are kept to work in horrible conditions) and so she does her best to make her master happy, but with his horse sickening due to Grace's actions, it is looking unlikely that she will be able to stay.

The last two books (Grace and Glory and A Home for Grace) count for the Aussie Author Challenge, Historical Fiction Reading Challenge and Australian Women Writer's Challenge.

18 comments:

  1. These books are a brilliant idea. I had not heard of them and will pass the information on to a couple of young Australian girls I know (daughters of friends). Think I will see if library has them. Would be interesting to read some. Brilliant blog, thanks, Pam

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    1. Pam, I have enjoyed reading this series and I am definitely intending to read about the other girls too!

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  2. This sounds like Australia's version of the American Girl series. With the creative packaging, these books could be just as popular.

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    1. Dani, I am sure that the Dear Diary series and American Girl series probably provided some inspiration for the series. On the website it talks about being inspired by books like Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie books as well.

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  3. My daughter I think read the Poppy book a few years ago, if it was available then.

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  4. Told by my daughter that I was wrong, so must had the conversation some time different with some other girl.

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    1. Yes, was coming back to say that these books only came out last year.

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  5. I hadn't heard of these before, either, Marg, but what a great series idea. Thanks for the heads-up!

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  6. I recently bought my daughters best friend a few of these and I've bought my daughter a couple for Christmas as well :)

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    1. They would make great gifts!

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  7. This is a funny coincidence Marg. At the library sale, I bought my daughter Our CANADIAN Girl: Buffalo Hunt. The series is the same idea, four books per girl. I guess someone thought this was a good idea for many countries! Angelique is the girl in this book. I'm thinking of reading it and reviewing it.

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    1. Chris, I felt a bit odd reviewing a series that is aimed at 10 year olds, but you know, the concept is so fun that I just had to!

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  8. Oh man. I wish my niece was little. She would have *loved* these books with the history and the charms.

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  9. Great to see such quality books being well appreciated!

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