Review of the ‘Our Australian Girl’ Series

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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.

graceTo 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!

(Imogen, 12)

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.

meet-graceThe ‘Letty’ titles are written by Alison Lloyd and begin in 1841 with Letty farewelling her older sister who is embarking on a long sea voyage to Australia.

meet-lettyThe ‘Poppy’ titles are written by Gabrielle Wang. Of Indigenous and Chinese heritage, Poppy lives at a mission near Echuca in Victoria in 1864.

meet-poppyThe ‘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.

meet-roseThe ‘Nellie’ books are written by Penny Matthews. It’s 1849 and Nellie is arriving in Port Adelaide after a long journey by ship from Ireland.

meet-nellieThe ‘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!

meet-aliceThe ‘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.

meet-lina-our-australian-girl-lina-1-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

meet-ruby-our-australian-girlIn early 2014, two new characters will be added to the series, Daisy and Pearlie.

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.

 

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13 Comments

  1. Margaret on Dec 1, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    I would love to win this set for our school Library. The Books we have in this series are ALWAYS out on loan. The girls in particular are just loving them. I have had to restrict them to just one at a time so everyone gets to read them I order and I often have a waiting list of students for the next one as someone finishes. I have read the ones we have and have really enjoyed them.

    Please think of me when drawing a winner as not just one person but many students will love them.

  2. Joanne on Dec 1, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    I read the meet Grace series to my year 4 class this year. They are a tough audience (ESL, poor literacy skills and very boy dominant). We only had the first three books in our school library and it took me a while to track down number four. My class loved them! Every day they would ask to read more chapters. It was such a good series to introduce historical narratives. The writing they produced afterwards was amazing. We had a Meet Grace Day where we turned our room into a convict ship, ate salted beef and porridge with weevils in it (coco pops work well as weevils) and threw two trouble makers into the coal hold. These books led my class towards other novels including some by Jackie French and inspired some fantastic teaching moments. I have recommend the series to other year four teachers (it fits so well with the new history curriculum). I would love to be able to gift my school library with more of these great Australian novels, after I read them of course! Jo

  3. Bronwyn on Dec 1, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Great review!

    These books have been favourites amongst my primary students over the past few years, as they appeal to a broad age range and varied reading ability levels, as well as a range of interests. I think it’s wonderful when authors can link girls to their pasts, to introduce some understanding of Australian history and the lifestyles of young women coming of age in Australia across generations.

    I’ve often given these books as birthday gifts to nieces and friend’s daughters, and they’ve always been well-received gifts with the girls already familiar with the series. I’ve thought on many occasions how I’d love to share them with my infant daughter in years to come.

    I’d also love to win this prize for my personal collection as I’d love to read the books myself and join in the conversations about favourite characters and storylines with young students!

  4. Corena on Dec 1, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    I’m sorely tempted to say I’ll keep them for my infant daughter, but this Christmas I think they’d be a great gift for my niece. She could act as reviewer and critic on my behalf! This is the first time I’ve come across the series and I think it looks great. My niece is 12 and enjoys reading but has struggled in the past until a diagnosis of dyslexia. I think she would thoroughly enjoy the books. I look forward to discovering them in the future too!

  5. Jo on Dec 1, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    Oh my, these books look right up my alley. Can’t wait for Mimi and Connie to be old enough to get into books like these. Somehow I can’t really see Mimi sitting for hours reading like I did growing up, but I guess she does love to paint and draw for ages (“ages” in a 2yo’s timeframe), so it is still possible! And she does love a good storyline and, like me, gets obsessed in certain books for a while. She’s still asking about “China Doll’s Charm” we got out of the library months ago.

  6. Cath on Dec 2, 2013 at 11:45 am

    My daughters often ask me about the characters in many of the stories that we read: “Is she real mummy?”, “Did she really do that?” I just love the idea of them hearing stories about real girls, not only fictional characters (as much as I love Pippi Longstocking of course!). We are just moving into chapter books at home and I’d love to win a copy of even one of them, let alone the whole set! Thanks for hosting such a fab idea for Xmas x

  7. katepickle on Dec 2, 2013 at 11:50 am

    My Izzy adores these books! My twins are in grade three this year and studied Australian history and Izzy’s teacher pulled me aside one afternoon to ask me how she knew so much about Australian History, and the only answer I could come up with was because she had started reading these books at the end of grade two and had read every copy our library had! LOL
    So if I won I’d give the books to Izzy who would then pass them on to her twin sister, who would then send them to a friend who also loves them, and in the end the books would end up at our School library as this seems to be the path many of our books travel!

    • Anonymous on Dec 2, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      Oh you’re a good parent sending books to the library! I have a few parents who do this and it’s great!

  8. Liz P on Dec 3, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    I would love to give these books to my ten year old daughter. They would tie in perfectly with our current Australian history focus in our home school.

  9. Jodi on Dec 3, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    I would give this set of books to my daughter, Sophie. She is a reluctant reader (puts the oven timer on to do her 15 mins of homework reading each night) but she did read Meet Grace and quite enjoyed it, so I promptly went out and got her A friend for Grace. She would like this series and I would like it if she read more. I think I may have finally found the hook to get her interested and this series seems to be that hook.

  10. Sharon Fawcett on Dec 4, 2013 at 5:47 am

    I’d love to win these for my daughter who is 10. We found her a copy of ‘Meet Grace’ at the Op Shop one day and she has enthusiastically read it several times. Unfortunately they don’t have this series of books in her school library. If we had the set she would more than likely share them with her friends as I’ve noticed our collection of Enid Blyton books is currently doing the rounds with her group of besties.
    Thanks for the great giveaway, such a generous prize!

  11. Kate and Ada on Dec 4, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    I love these books, and I would gift them to my daughter and her friends to share. As Sharon mentioned, they really love sharing their books with each other and I’ve noticed this is encouraging those with lower reading abilities to try harder and match their friends.
    These have also encouraged my daughter to try new types of books away from the typical diary of a wimpy kid and similar. They were read in class during a unit in history, she has found this unit to be the most exciting so far. One of the key aspects of these series I enjoy is the lack of ‘censorship’ involved, it doesn’t sugar coat life just because they are kids and is a great example of how great life is right now!
    My daughter Ada would like to provide her own input too! “I would love to give them to my friends because we’ve loved trading them as not all of us have the right books. Ever since my teacher started reading them I really loved them. Then for my birthday my Great Nana gave me one and my Aunty Bronwyn gave me one too.”
    Great competition!

  12. Kim on Dec 6, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    I would give them to my daughter, she loves reading and has read one of these books and loved it! I love encouraging her to read, I want her to be addicted to reading like me!

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