Wednesday 28 December 2016

True Stories of Life at Sydney Cove

True Stories of Life at Sydney Cove by Susan E Boyer (Birrong Books) PB RRP $18.95

After publishing 'Across Great Divides: True Stories of Life at Sydney Cove (2013) through Birrong Books, Susan E Boyer, the author, received positive feedback from teachers about its content linking closely with Australian Curriculum history units. In response she has written this young reader edition.

This book will appeal young Australian readers who enjoy learning about their white heritage. The stories bring to life the diverse experiences of people living in the precarious circumstance of Australia's first penal colony. They are relayed through a non-fiction narrative which shows how convict men saw and seized the possibilities of their new position. The book portrays the situation of convict women and their relationships with military men and demonstrates the varied responses of participants to their unique situation. Some settlers succeeded beyond their imagination, some failed disastrously.

The stories also give voice to the dilemma of the Aboriginal people challenged by the unexpected arrival of a completely alien race of white people to their land: Bennelong and his difficult-to-ignore wife, Barangaroo, dealt with their new circumstances in a way they felt would best benefit themselves and their people. On the other hand, the young warrior Pemulwuy had his own ideas about how the white invaders should be confronted. Boorong and Nanberry, two native children taken separately into the homes of white settlers in the aftermath of a devastating epidemic, went on to have fickle yet enduring relationships with their white guardians.

The stories in Across Great Divides, true stories of life at Sydney Cove give the different perspectives of military men who had volunteered for a tour of duty in the remote colony. Marine officers Watkin Tench, William Dawes, George Johnston, Philip Gidley King, and Captain John Hunter left valuable links to past times through their diaries, letters and journals. Arthur Phillip, the colony's first governor, also wrote letters which give us insight into the dilemmas plaguing his mind.

The author has developed free teaching downloads, including listening activities, for use in classrooms and is currently developing a 'Resource Book' for Stories of Life at Sydney Cove, for purchase.

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