Review of the ‘Our Australian Girl’ Series
Review of the ‘Our Australian Girl’ Series
Various authors (listed below). Illustrated by Lucia Mascuillo.
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Age Range: 8 -12 years. Each volume is slim, making them suitable for younger readers as well as non or struggling readers. However I have also been interested to see how much they also appeal to more advanced readers who are hooked in by quality writing and engaging storylines.
To date I have not reviewed the ‘Our Australian Girl’ series as the series seems to sell itself rather well! But with the release of the new ‘Grace’ hardback bind-up (above – this was my photo on Instagram the second after I purchased it!), I am going to gush. If you do not already know this series and you have a young reader 8 – 12 years, run very fast to your local independent bookstore or click very fast through to Australian-owned Booktopia and grab some of these.
If this series had been around when I was in primary school, perhaps I would have been slightly more engaged in history lessons. With 32 individual titles now in the series, the ‘Our Australian Girl’ books bring Australian history to life. Whether it is 1840s central Victoria or aboard a ship bound for the Antipodes, the series engages readers in the stories behind these events. Not only do the books illuminate some of these historic events but they weave through important themes about immigration and family life.
One of my students who enjoyed this series from the start said to me the other day:
The thing I like best about the books is that I can relate the feelings and hardships of the girls to my own experiences. My problems are a bit like their problems but their problems are on a much bigger scale!
There are now eight Our Australian Girl characters and for each character there are four books. The new hardback bind-up which was the impetus for this little gush is ‘The Grace Stories’ and it is all four Grace books in one beautiful hardback with a clasp at the front. Much to the excitement of some young readers I know, there is also a bonus final chapter.
Everything about this series just works and congratulations must go to the team behind these books. The authors involved are some of Australia’s finest, the stories are well researched and the writing in all books is consistently high quality and engaging. The design of the books is just beautiful; in particular, the different charm bracelets which grace each cover are marketing genius without being gimmicky. The ‘Our Australian Girl’ website which many young readers will gravitate to is jam-packed with information and activities. Yet another thoughtful touch is that each book ends with a page about both the author and the illustrator titled ‘How I Became an Australian Girl’. The Illustrator of the series is Lucia Mascuillo – Italian born and only recently immigrated to Australia. Lucia is a delightful lady, an accomplished illustrator and a perfect fit for this series. These books are collectable and will be treasured, read and re-read.
The ‘Grace’ titles are written by Sofie Laguna. Her story begins in 1808 as a young orphan living in London.
The ‘Rose’ titles are written by Sherryl Clark. It’s 1900 and Rose lives with her family in a big house in Melbourne with an ultra-conservative mother. Aunt Alice, a feisty suffragette, moves in and everything changes.
The ‘Alice’ books are written by Davina Bell. It’s 1918 and Alice, a young ballerina, lives with her big family on the banks of the Swan River in Perth. Her father is off fighting in World War One and her mother has a job at a bank. I dressed up as Alice for Book Week – love Alice!
The ‘Lina’ books are written by Sally Rippin. It’s 1956 and Lina lives in Carlton with her family. She dreams of being a writer, but her strict Italian parents have other ideas.
The ‘Ruby’ books are written by Penny Matthews. It’s 1931 and Ruby lives a privileged life in a big home in Adelaide. But when her father’s business goes bankrupt, Ruby’s world changes dramatically
I have mourned the end of the Penguin ‘Aussie Bites’ series for some time now but if I have to let this series go, then I am so pleased that Penguin are now committed to such another high quality series in ‘Our Australian Girl’. With the companion series for boys, ‘Do You Dare?’ coming in early 2014 I shall very possibly recover entirely from the loss of new additions to the ‘Aussie Bites’ series.