Wednesday 11 June 2014

To the Goldfields

To the Goldfields by Rachel Tonkin (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781922179883
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This time the incredibly talented Rachel Tonkin takes us back to1852 to the goldfields. The full page intricately detailed illustrations that are her trademark, draw us back in time once more. You can smell the eucalypt trees; hear the wind rustle the leaves, and the cart rolling. You almost choke on the dust lifted by the wooden wheels. That’s how deeply these illustrations awaken all the senses.

Then at the goldfields you can imagine the echoes of children’s excited voces as they run across the dusty ground, while the family settles into their new life after joining father at the digs. The leaky tent that is the school, the sly grog shop, the panning for gold and the bustle of everyday living is like a slideshow come to life.

The characters’ faces are always full of expression. The clothing, houses, environment, the notices and signs; everything is a true depiction of life on the goldfields. You learn of the births and deaths, and sicknesses that robbed the early diggers and their families – mostly the children, of their life. And about the dangerous mine shafts, flooding rains, bushrangers, Eureka Stockade and other happenings and mishaps.

History retold can be boring. This retelling is full of excitement and adventure that will educate while entertaining young readers (and older ones). There is so much to look for, discover, discuss, absorb and question on every page.

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