Saturday, 31 October 2015

Books in a Series for Young Voracious Readers - Part 1

Some children read very quickly and are always asking for more books. Although all my children loved reading, two had insatiable reading habits. They were/are both active and have interests in many different areas so it wasn't as if they sat around all day reading. They just had the ability to read extremely quickly.
When children are still quite young it is sometimes difficult to find suitable reading material for their age. I didn't want to give my voracious readers any old book to stop them harrassing me, although at times I told them to go back and re-read some.
This is the beginning of some posts with lists of books in a series that I felt comfortable using with our children when they were around the ages of  eight to ten and that they all enjoyed at one stage or another.

I'd already mentioned the Redwall series for reluctant readers but they are great books for the book gobblers also as there are a number of them and they are well written.
In this post I'll concentrate on another family favourite:

The Biggles books are a series of books (one hundred and two altogether) written between 1932 and 1968 by W.E. Johns (1893-1968). Some are difficult to find as they're out of print but others have been reprinted in the past few years. They are also suitable for reluctant readers, especially boys, and have a wide appeal for a variety of ages. We know a number of adults who still have their boyhood Biggles' collections.
W.E. Johns was a British fighter pilot during WW1 and his writing reflects his knowledge of aircraft and air battles. His books are adventurous, fun to read and are free from pessimism.

Moozle loves this series and has become quite an expert on old war planes as I found out when she got into a conversation with her brother's orthodontist, an aviation enthusiast & expert on model planes. Here is what she said when I asked her which ones she would recommend reading first:

"The first book in the Biggles series by W.E.Johns you should read is The Boy Biggles.
A good book of adventures of when Biggles was a boy in India.


Biggles Goes to School - Biggles’ adventures when he’s in school.

Biggles Learns to Fly - it’s situated in WW1, when Biggles learns to fly a Camel, (an aircraft!) in Squadron 266.

Biggles Flies East -

The head office tells Biggles to go as a spy into German territory, relying on the fact that someone has mistaken Biggles for another person who is on the German side.

‘The General’s face was grave when he returned and sat down at his desk, and he eyed Biggles speculatively.

“Now, Bigglesworth,” he commenced, “I am going to have a very serious talk with you, and I want you to listen carefully. While I have been away I have examined the situation from every possible angle, I believe that Broglace’s next move will be to will be to make a definite offer to you, provided you do not give him cause for alarm. If our assumption is correct, he will suggest that you work for him, which means, of course, for Germany; I would like you to except that offer.” 

The Camels are Coming -

This is first book W.E. Johns wrote and takes place during WW1 when Biggles was a fighter pilot in France.

Biggles in the Orient -

Biggles is sent to figure the reason why machines are just suddenly falling every day, on a normal flight. The place where’s its happening is Dum Dum, an aircraft station.

The other books can be read in any order, except some of them are in WW1, in between the wars, and some of them are in WW2.

 Biggles Takes a Holiday -

Biggles’s friend Angus Mackail has disappeared into a valley, which is advertised as ‘Paradise Valley,’ in South America. Biggles sets out to find him with his trio of friends, Bertie Lissie, Algernon Montgomery Lacey (or Algy Lacey) and ‘Ginger’ Hebblethwaite (he has red hair)."

Thank you to Miss Moozle aged 10 years for her thoughts above. 

A bit about the author from a flyleaf of one of his books:

Captain W.E. Johns was born in Hertfordshire in 1893. He flew with the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War and made a daring escape from a German prison camp in 1918. Between the wars he edited Flying and Popular Flying and became a writer for the Ministry of Defence.

For a listing of the books in the order they were written see here.


Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Keeping on...Nature Study in October

Celeste had an optional prompt for this month's Keeping link-up:

What part of Keeping do you find the biggest challenge--either personally or in encouraging Keeping habits in your children?  What part do you find the most enjoyable?  And further, for those that have been Keeping for a while now: what is the biggest benefit you have found to your Keeping over the years?  What has been the hardest habit to form or maintain long-term?

Here are some of my thoughts on this:

The biggest challenge - this was probably establishing a regular habit in the first place and in the second keeping up the habit when my children didn't express enthusiasm. 

Most enjoyable - in Nature Keeping, my own growth in this area; seeing my children develop their own sense of wonder outside of our 'assigned' nature study; my youngest daughter wanting to do everything she has seen her older siblings doing in this area.

Biggest benefit - the pleasure my older children have in looking back over some of their notebooks; the record I have of the way books have impacted me in my reading (from my Commonplace); reading the quotes Benj writes in his Commonplace book.  

Hardest habit to form or maintain long-term - this has been different for everyone. If I check and require them to do something, write it on their schedules, it makes all the difference & they know I'm serious about it.

My 20 year old son took this photo during his lunch break at work. So good to know that he still does his nature study!

Moozle's painting of a freesia done in her free time. A few times recently she's called me outside to show me a bee getting its nectar - we read about this about a month ago in The Story Book of Science.

Benj found this little fellow when he was doing his Saturday morning outside jobs. I was out shopping but he took a photo and told me about it when I got home. It was still in the garden waste bin and when I tried to get him out he leaped out of reach. I was amazed at the length of his legs compared to the rest of him.

I used this opportunity to read William Gillies' & Robert Hall's book, Nature Study in Australia  section on frogs. We've done this previously but Moozle was fairly young. The Green Stream Frog (Litoria phyllochroa), also known as the Green Leaf Tree Frog & the Leaf Green Tree Frog! is a regular visitor around here but difficult to spot at times as he blends in so well with all the greenery.

Benj's Nature Notebook

A nasturtium plant I grew from a cutting which I thought had died but has resurrected itself

Australian parrot, the Galah, Eolophus roseicapillus. I was surprised to find that they have been  known to breed with other members of the cockatoo family, such as the Sulphur-crested cockatoo. Now that would produce an interesting looking offspring. Interesting that we only rarely see these birds in our valley but if we go up the road a bit they are there in abundance.

A spring onion gone to seed...can you tell growing veges is not my forte? At least we got some nature study out of it. something out of The Day of the Triffids.

I mentioned in a recent post that I've just finished reading The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter. If you need a push to get outside and soak up the beauty of the natural world, get a hold of one of her books. They always inspire me to actually get up and get out - even in the middle of a chapter.

'To the extent of my brain power I realize Your presence, and all it is in me to comprehend of Your power. Help me to learn, even this late, the lessons of Your wonderful creations. Help me to unshackle and expand my soul to the fullest realization of Your wonders. Almighty God, make me bigger, make me broader!” 

Mrs Comstock's prayer in Chapter 15 of A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter


Monday, 26 October 2015

The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter (1863-1924)

'Now a great adventure may be killing white hippopotami in Africa to one man and commanding his own soul for an hour to another.

The reason a great adventure is an adventure is because things that happen are so very simple and so very natural. Why it is great is merely because one has not expected it, not because it could not very well have been expected had one's wits been working.'

After being wounded in combat during World War I, Jamie MacFarlane is repatriated to California for treatment. After a year in the best military hospital available, he is no better and the authorities decide to stop his treatment, and give his place to another. When he accidentally overhears this plan, he decides his days are numbered, walks out of the place with nothing but the clothes on his back, and turns north to begin his Great Adventure.

With the intention of placing as much distance between himself and the hospital, he makes his way north by hitching rides and finds himself running the gamut of humanity in his various encounters with kind travellers, cruel bandits and pickpockets.

...dimly he was beginning to formulate in his mind the feeling that the world is made up of good people and bad people, of selfish people and thoughtful people, of cruel people and kind people, and it was merely a case of luck as to which kind you met when you went on a great adventure.

By the time he reaches the coast he is at the limit of his endurance and ready to collapse. Seeing a small house in the distance and propelled on by the charm of its situation, he stumbles towards it and as he does, an elderly man reels out clutching his chest.

Jamie pushes past his own weakness and goes to the aid of the stricken man who is known as the Master Bee Keeper. A doctor is called and the Bee Keeper is taken to hospital for emergency surgery. Jamie, with nowhere else to go and no strength left to take him, agrees to look after the Bee Keeper's home and bee hives. With the help of Little Scout, he learns about the bees and their ways. Margaret Cameron, an elderly neighbour and close friend to the Bee Keeper, helps Jamie recover from his wound and later finds her life inexplicably linked with the young man she comes to respect and admire.

The Keeper of the Bees, written in 1925, was Gene Stratton-Porter's last novel and is set in California, where she made her home in 1923. Her childhood home was a cabin next to the Limberlost Swamp in Indiana and she was passionately devoted to the study of nature. She had only a little schooling but loved books and was determined to be a writer. Realising that the public would never be satisfied with just natural history studies, she combined a good story with her love of the natural world and the novel Freckles (which has sold almost two million copies) was the result.

I've thought much and written a little about self-education, especially in my role as a mother and in teaching my own children, and so was interested to read a little about the author's background.
She was married, kept a home and had a daughter to look after, but she made time to study and to write without neglecting those responsibilities.
She refused to be moved by editors who said her novels wouldn't sell if she included the nature references and her work was accurate enough that it was met with commendation from universities and other places of learning.
Speaking of her writing she said:

"To my way of thinking and working, the greatest service a piece of fiction can do any reader is to leave him with a higher ideal of life than he had when he began. If in one small degree it shows him where he can be a gentler, saner, cleaner, kindler man, it is a wonder-working book.

If it opens his eyes to one beauty in nature he never saw for himself and leads him one step towards the God of the Universe, it is a beneficial book, for one step into the miracle of nature leads to that long walk, the glories of which so strengthen even a boy who thinks he is dying, that he faces his struggle like a gladiator."

Some thoughts:

Whenever I read her books I always feel inspired to get out and do some gardening! She writes about the natural world so beautifully it really is inspiring.
Although I enjoyed this particular book, it isn't my favourite. So far I'd say that A Girl of the Limberlost is the book I've loved the most.

My older girls have read and very much enjoyed most of her novels.
I think her books appeal more to girls, although I read Freckles aloud to three of the boys and they didn't mind it.
If you've never read any of her novels or if you're looking at using them with children I'd suggest the following two first which were based on her farm childhood:

Freckles - an abandoned orphan is hired to guard an area of valuable timber in the Limberlost swamp. At first he is terrified of the wilderness but over a period of time he becomes fascinated with the birds of the forest and begins his journey of acceptance and healing. A beautiful book which makes a great read aloud for around age 10 and up.

A Girl of the Limberlost - also set in the Limberlost, this is a powerful story in which Elnora Comstock discovers the key to loving her emotionally distant mother. I cried most of the way through this. Reading this story made me want to be a better mother. I don't know that I'd manage to read this one aloud but I'd have to read it again to see if it has the same effect on me that it did when I first read it. Updated to add: I read this a long time ago & I just glanced over it to refresh my memory. Elanora's father was unfaithful to his wife at one point and as it is a factor in the mother's inability to express love to her daughter, it isn't something easily edited out. I'd save it for an older age group  even though the author is very discrete in her writing.

The Keeper of the Bees would be better left until around the age of 15 years as are some of her other books (I can't remember which ones exactly as it's been a while since I read them) mostly because they probably wouldn't be appreciated by a younger audience and her style is a little 'preachy' in this one. She does deal with slightly more mature content in some of her books but always in a wholesome and discreet manner.

This book is scheduled in Free Reads, Ambleside Online Year 11.

Gene Stratton-Porter's books are available free online at Project Gutenberg.
Historic site, Indiana State Museum.

The Keeper of the Bees is my entry for a Very Long Classic Novel (i.e. more than 500 pages) for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2015.  At 526 pages it just scrapes in.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

From my Reading: Obedience, Suffering & Trust
Camille Corot, 1854

In the last week I've come across the themes of obedience, suffering and trust in three different places. I'm always pleasantly surprised when these connections happen and I'm grateful I've gotten  into the habit of having a number of books on the go at the one time. It really does help these connections to happen organically.
I've been reading, very slowly, through One Thousand Gifts after starting it earlier this year. Ann Voscamp bares her soul in this book and I've been savouring what she's written about so honestly - the pain of her childhood experiences of loss, her struggles to trust in God's goodness and her journey of gratitude.
This week I read these words:

The practice of giving thanks...this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don't have to change what we see. Only the way we see.

This living a lifestyle of intentional gratitude became an unintentional test in the trustworthiness of God - and in counting blessings I stumbled upon the way out of fear...

Every time fear freezes and worry writhes, every time I surrender to stress, aren't I advertising the unreliability of God?

The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Sratton-Porter

I've just finished this book and will write about it more fully later but I wanted to share this quote which relates to obedience and how our decisions in this area don't just affect our own lives.

"Don't!" cried Jamie. "Don't be bitter, Margaret. We don't know why, we never can know why things happen in this world exactly as they do; but this we know: We know that God is in His Heaven, that He is merciful to the extent of ordaining mercy; we know that if we disobey and take our own way and run contrary to His commandments, we are bitterly punished. And it is the most pitiful of laws that no man or woman can take their punishment 'alone' in this world. It is the law that none of us can suffer without making someone else suffer, but in some way it must be that everything works out for the best, even if we can't possibly see how that could be when things are happening that hurt us so..."

This third place where these three themes were expressed was this article I read on Sally Clarkson's blog. Sally speaks about the example of a mentor/an older, wiser woman, and the encouragement she gained from her life:

But it is what you practice, day after day, that builds your integrity, your character, your strength, your message–what you do when no one is looking.

And so this is the place I became spiritually strong. God gave me a testing ground for my soul–this place of being faithful, generous, loving even if I received nothing in return.

This place of difficulty became my greatest lifetime glory. Never underestimate the hidden, unseen acts of obedience.”

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

AusReading Month

Once a year, in November, Brona hosts an Australian book reading month.

Join us as we read, review and blog about all things Australian - classic books, contemporary stories, children's books, poetry, non-fiction, short stories, popular, literary, award-winning - whatever.

The only stipulation is that it has to be written by an Australian based author or predominantly set in Australia.

This year my choices are (subject to change):

Playing Beattie Bow by Ruth Park
My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

Updated to add:

The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell

I'd like to add some children's picture books if I have time and a book by Nevil Shute (I've been slowly working my way through his wonderful novels).

If you'd like to join just head over to Brona's Books and sign up. You don't have to be an Aussie to enter!

Friday, 16 October 2015

A Condensed Year 9 & 10 with a Weekly Schedule

This is a term of work for Benj with an outline of his weekly schedule. He's 15 years old and will be starting Ambleside Online Year 11 at the beginning of next year by which time he'll have turned 16. This term has a selection of some books from AO Years 9 & 10 plus others I've added, and covers the time period around the 1700's to 1800's.


The Age of Revolution - Volume III
The Great Democracies - Volume IV by Winston S. Churchill

2 chapters per week with the aim of finishing both books by the end of the year. Benj said that he'd like to finish these books as he enjoys Churchill's writing. Reading lots of historical fiction by authors such as G.A. Henty when they were younger has made it much easier for my children to ease into Churchill's A History of the English-Speaking Peoples later on.


Napoleon and the Napoleonic Wars by Albert Marrin - A chapter per week.


Buccaneer Explorer (William Dampier 1652-1715) This book was started in the third term of Year 8 and will continue until the end of the year. About 8 to 10 pages per week.


The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Shakespeare - Hamlet. We listen to an Arkangel audio and follow along with the text once a week.


Understanding Physics by Isaac Asimov

There are three volumes in this book. Benj has finished Volume 1, Motion Sound & Heat and should be finished Volume 2, Light, Magnetism & Electricity by the end of this year. He does about a chapter a week, depending on their length. He really enjoys this book, probably because Maths is one of his favourite subjects.

Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif

Benj has finished the first three chapters. Some of the chapters are quite long and I don't want him to rush through the book in order to squeeze in the six chapters scheduled in Year 10 so he just reads a section each per week.

Mr Tomkins Inside Himself: Adventures in the New Biology by George Gamow & Martynas Ycas

A chapter per week.
I'd been looking for a book on Biology that I thought would interest Benj (Biology not being a subject he's all that interested in) and saw that Nebby had mentioned this book. Gamow is probably more widely known for his books on physics but he has an ability to present complex scientific subjects within an understandable and engaging narrative.

Mr. Tompkins is an ordinary middle-aged man who works in a bank but whose lively interest in science apparently occupies all his spare time, waking and dreaming...his dreams somehow fit the facts he has read about in books and magazines on popular science, thus helping him to grasp the difficult concepts through his own experiences.

I've been skim reading it ahead of Benj and have found it quite interesting. Benj said Mr Tompkin's adventures reminded him a little of The Magic School Bus books he loved when he was little. There is some evolutionary content, notably in Chapter 6, where Mr Tompkins meets Charles Darwin. I'll be adding some additional resources such as videos & articles so if you're interested, let me know and I'll post what we're doing and give some more information about the book.


Science Notebook
Commonplace Book
Nature Notebook
Latin Notebook
Timeline/Book of Centuries

Plutarch's Lives - Themistocles. I read this to Benj & Moozle weekly using Anne White's study guide.

Straight Talk by Barry Chant

Unfortunately, the corny cover doesn't do this book justice. It was published in 1977 but deals with issues that are still relevant today in a realistic and biblical manner. I've seen various books of more recent publication that address the same issues but I've been uncomfortable with their treatment of the subject. We've heard the author speak at different times and our teenage boys were part of a question and answer forum he addressed and they were impressed with his ability to communicate truth in a winsome manner on a range of hot topics.

How to Read a Book by Adler & Van Doren

I've had this book for ages and never got around to reading it so I started reading it aloud to Benj this year. We're up to Chapter 6 and I read a short section per week.

Ourselves by Charlotte Mason

A Fortunate Life by Albert Facey - I've been reading this aloud for a couple of months

Grammar & Composition

Continuing with Jensen's Format Writing (scroll down page)
Easy Grammar Ultimate Series: Grade 10 
Oral & written narrations


Saxon Advanced Maths with Art Reeds DVDs. Benj started this in August and it will probably take him through to the end of next year.

Other books from the time period being covered that I've assigned to be read freely:

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Hornblower books by C.S. Forester - he's already read a number of these already.
Robbery Under Arms by Rolfe Boldrewood

Linking to Weekly Wrap-up

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Ambleside Online Year 5 - with Australian Substitutes: Updated

What, then, have we to do for the child? Plainly we have not to develop the person; he is there already, with, possibly, every power that will serve him in his passage through life. Some day we shall be told that the very word education is a misnomer belonging to the stage of thought when the drawing forth of 'faculties' was supposed to be a teacher's business. We shall have some fit new word meaning, perhaps, 'applied wisdom,' for wisdom is the science of relations and the thing we have to do for a young human being is to put him in touch, so far as we can, with all the relations proper to him.
Charlotte Mason, Volume 3, pg 75

This is my (updated) plan for Moozle's Year 5 using Ambleside Online with some adaptions/substitutions to reflect our Australian situation. These are mostly for History and Biography, although I always add some Australian Natural History and don't usually follow the AO schedule for Composer, Artist, Folksongs and Hymns.
We schedule our year over three terms (Australian schools have four terms per year) and have breaks to fit in with whatever might be happenening regardless of where we are in the term. I've just found this to be the easiest way to make AO work for us.

AO Year 5 covers the time period from 1800 to 1914, the beginning of World War I. Books that we're  replacing with substitutes are:
This Country of Ours, Of Courage Undaunted (Moozle has read this before), and possibly George Washington Carver (may use it as a free read).
Otherwise we are primarily using the Year 5 schedule as linked above.

Term 1 (1800-1840's)

History of Australia by Manning Clark, Meredith Hooper and Susanne Ferrier - Chapters 8 to 14  (1995 edition). I started this in Year 4 and will continue to use it to cover Australian History until the end of Year 6.

Doctor Hunger & Captain Thirst: Stories of Australian Explorers by Meredith Hooper
Chapters 1 to 3

Margaret Catchpole (1762-1819) by Nance Donkin

Term 2 (1840-1860's)

History of Australia - Chapters 15 to 16

Doctor Hunger & Captain Thirst - Chapters 4 to 8

River Rivals by Ian Mudie

Term 3 (1860's-1914)

History of Australia - Chapters 17 to 21

Doctor Hunger & Captain Thirst - Chapters 9 to 15

The Singing Wire: The Story of the Overland Telegraph by Eve Pownall

Natural History

His parents know that the first step in intimacy is recognition; and they will measure his education, not solely by his progress in the 'three R's,' but by the number of living and growing things he knows by look, name, and habitat.

Charlotte Mason, Volume 3, pg 76

All my children have enjoyed the Ambleside Online selections for Natural History e.g. books by Ernest Seton Thompson and William Long so we keep these on the schedule and add in a couple of Australian titles. Tiger Cat by C.K.Thompson is one Moozle will be enjoying this year.


Read Alouds

A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey. We started this book a few months ago and are about a third of the way through. It's a wonderful autobiography of the author who was born in 1894 and grew up on the Kalgoorlie goldfields and in the wheat-belt of Western Australia. There are a few maps sprinkled throughout the book and we've been using these to cover the geography of Western Australia.

It cannot be too often said that information is not education. You may answer an examination question about the position of the Seychelles and the Comoro Islands without having been anywise nourished by the fact of these island groups existing in such and such latitudes and longitudes; but if you follow Bullen in The Cruise of the Cachelot (or in our case, the life and travels of Albert Facey) the names excite that little mental stir which indicates the reception of real knowledge.

Charlotte Mason, Volume 3, pg 169


Themistocles is the man whose life we have started to study. His is an interesting life to learn about as there are a few incidents in the story we already have some background knowledge on - Xerxes, The Battle of Thermopylae and King Leonidas, for example.


We haven't started another Shakespeare play yet but I've been watching this Royal Shakespeare Company version myself - not suitable for Moozle but I may use it with Benj. As yet I'm undecided on whether to do Hamlet - a comedy would be a nice change after our stint with Macbeth.

Updated to add:

Our Sunburnt Country covers similar material to History of Australia. She reads it on her own:

Term 1 - chapters 6, 7 & 8
Term 2 - chapter 9
Term 3 - chapters 10, 11 & 12

I read History of Australia aloud as the content is a little more mature and will also be reading aloud Doctor Hunger & Captain Thirst. Most of the other books on the AO schedule will be read on her own, with the exception of Madame How & Lady Why.


Maths just seemed to click for Moozle when we started Singapore Maths 4B and she started to get into decimals. 4A and some of the previous books were a struggle and I was wondering how on earth we'd ever get through the Singapore books I'd bought, so I am relieved. This is the first time anyone in our family has found maths difficult in the earlier grades. There were some hiccups with highschool level maths from time to time but that wasn't any surprise.

I didn't want her to just get her work done and get it right, but to actually find some enjoyment in the process. I gave her this book to read a few weeks ago and today she read about a card game on positive and negative numbers which we ended up playing together.

Science Biography

Robert Boyle, 'The Father of Modern Chemistry.' Moozle read a chapter from one of the suggested online sources chapters for Isaac Newton and then I gave her this book on Robert Boyle to take her through the remainder of the first term:

This eight and a half minute video gives a short introduction to Robert Boyle & his times:

I will probably substitute The Story of Madame Curie by Alice Thorne a Signature Biography for George Washington Carver in third term.

We continue with Latin (usually only once a week); French and Dawn's free ebook 'a Biblical study of the underpinning ideas found in Charlotte Mason's motto, I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will.' 


Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Secret River by Kate Grenville (2005)

Kate Grenville's work of historical fiction, The Secret River, was inspired by her own family history. The main character in this story, William Thornhill, was born into an impoverished family living in the London of 1777. He roamed the streets of London with his brothers and a couple of friends, Dan and Collarbone, but his best friend was Sal Middleton. Sal's father was a waterman and he, his wife and Sal lived in relative comfort.

When William was thirteen years old his mother died and shortly afterwards his father also, and the responsibility for the family's welfare came to rest upon his shoulders. Between William's work at the shipyard and his older sister Lizzie bringing in a little income, they managed to scrape together a living. When William turned fourteen, Lizzie became ill and was unable to work. Around the same time the Thames froze over, resulting in no work for William. The family began to starve.
It was at this point that Sal's father stepped in. After the loss of yet another child, Mr. Middleton knew that no son would ever be born to him and his wife, so he decided to take William on as an apprentice and teach him the waterman's trade.
At the end of his seven year apprenticeship, William married Sal. He could hardly believe the turn his life had taken.
Eight years later, his life took another turn and he and Sal with their two young children, stepped off the convict ship, Alexander, and onto Sydney Cove.
The rest of the book recounts their lives in the new colony and the effects of William's decision to take up land belonging to the Darug people on the Hawkesbury River after he had earned his freedom.

Some thoughts:

Some important themes were portrayed in this book. The emancipated William Thornhill became an oppressor himself. This was evident in his behaviour to the convicts assigned to him when he was given his freedom, one of whom was his former childhood friend, Dan. His treatment of the Dharug people reflected the treatment he experienced from his 'betters,' the English upperclass. As far as they were concerned, he was subhuman. The strata mentality of London was transferred to this new land.
The author gave a tangible picture of life in early Sydney and her descriptions of the Hawkesbury River were well captured. I thought she was fairly even-handed in her portrayal of the interactions between the newly arrived settlers and the Aboriginal inhabitants. There were misunderstandings on both sides and the treatment of the Aboriginal people mirrored what was suffered by those English unfortunates who were considered little more than animals.

This is the first book I've read by Australian author Kate Grenville, and in fact, the first modern work of historical fiction I've read in a long time. I liked her style of writing, it was descriptive and engaging, but the book was spoilt for me by the inclusion of some obscene and profane language that I didn't think enhanced the narrative. If it had been otherwise I would have considered using the book as part of our Australian History studies.
I've read a number of books in the same genre (Australian Historical fiction) but written closer to the time period. For the Term of His Natural Life is one that immediately comes to mind. It's a harrowing tale that doesn't water down the cruelty and senselessness of Australia's convict days, but it does so without using the type of language so many modern authors seem to find necessary to include.


Linking this to the Aussie Author Challenge