Friday 3 April 2015

Frank Gardiner

Frank Gardiner by Jane Smith (Big Sky Publishing)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9781922132673
Reviewed by J Wishart

This non-fiction story is aimed at readers aged around 7 to 12 years and is part of the Australian Bushranger series produced by Big Sky Publishing. Written by historical researcher, Jane Smith, it offers an insight into the exploits of Frank Gardiner during the mid 1800s.

Born in Scotland, Gardiner (then Frank Christie) immigrated to Australia with his family at the age of five. The year was 1834. Fortunate to receive an early education, Gardiner nonetheless had to grow up fast and was working as a stockman by his teenage years. Lack of employment, and a life dependent on horses, eventually tempted him into stock theft. From there he progressed to highway robbery, and eventually became famous for holding up the coach that escorted gold from the mines to Bathurst. 

Despite his crimes, Gardiner had such a talent for influencing people that the term ‘Gardinerism’ was used to refer to his artful strategies. He managed to appeal his sentences with the help of friends and family and even won the support of local citizens, some of whom were victims of his crimes.

As well as touching on themes of human nature and the pursuit of wealth, the book contains a range of historically accurate information. In addition to the main narrative it includes photographs and copies of official documents and news stories to add interest and authenticity. The story covers Gardiner’s main period of activity during colonial history, his various arrests and escapes, and leads up to his eventual exile in 1874.

The text is presented in small, easy-to-read chunks. Breakout boxes offer straightforward facts and figures and help to show the reader what life was like at the time, including difficulties practically unknown today due to modern transport and communications technology. Character is added through the inclusion of brief biographies of the various characters who worked with Gardiner, as well as those who tried to bring him to justice.

1 comment:

  1. The Eugowra robbery was the most interesting and was witnessed by a child, who wrote an account of it in his old age. He saw it all through a hole in his hat when they pulled it over his face! I have a story about that in the next Trust Me book.


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