Monday 7 November 2022

Wild Bush Days

Wild Bush Days by Penny Harrison, illustrated by Virginia Gray (Midnight Sun) HB RRP $29.99 ISBN 9780987380906

Reviewed by Nikki M Heath 

The early-20th century life of Jessie Hickman was fascinating: circus performer-turned-cattle rustler, she hid in a mountain cave to hide from police, earning her the tagline ‘Lady Bushranger’. This book seeks to bring that story to life, using two modern children echoing Jessie’s movements in search of her cave. 

This is a beautifully designed and illustrated book, a joy to the eye on each generous spread. The reader is left with a deep appreciation of the landscapes along with the sense of freedom and loneliness Jessie must have felt.

Point of view interchanges between the modern children and Jessie throughout. While it is understandable why this device has been used, together with the lyrical text, it is a challenging read. The language is heavy with literary devices, making it both rich and beautiful, but light on narrative. It would be difficult to understand the story without the benefit of the blurb.

With some guidance, this would be a useful companion to a mid-to-upper primary level Australian (or feminist) history inquiry.

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