#Book Bingo 2018 is a collaboration challenge I am completing with my favourite blogger, Theresa Smith Writes. How does it work? We have devised our own personalised book bingo card game. Twice a month, on the first and third Saturday of the month, Theresa and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The book bingo card contains a total of 25 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year. To accommodate all the squares, we will be posting additional entries in the months of March and June, this will ensure that we stay on track to complete the book bingo game by December. To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us. We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post or by visiting Theresa Smith Writes.
The rules and regulations of stern Captain Woolcot are no match for his seven little Australians. Led by spirited Judy, they run wild at their rambling riverside home – until a tragedy strikes that will change their lives forever.
Step inside and meet them all – dreamy Meg, and forthright Pip, daring Judy, naughty Bunty, gentle Nell, and cheeky Baby, and the youngest, ‘the General’. Their triumphs and tears will stay with you always.
Seven Little Australians, penned by Ethel Turner in 1894, is my choice for the somewhat problematic category for Book Bingo 2018 (and one I admit to avoiding) ‘a forgotten classic’. I did find this square a touch hard to adequately fulfil, as it is difficult to decide what constitutes as a ‘forgotten classic’. It really is a personal choice, or a reflection on individual reading habits. Although I am a great fan of children’s books and Australian literature, I rarely delve into Australian classics. I decided to select my title, Seven Little Australians, based on the fact that I didn’t read this one as a child, or later as an adult. I have heard of the book, but despite that fact that Seven Little Australians has remained in reprint for over one hundred years after it was first published, this is my first experience of the title. I acquired my illustrated copy from a local op shop and this particular edition was published in 1991.
The front cover of my edition of Seven Little Australians introduces this book as ‘Ethel Turner’s Endearing Children’s Classic’. After reading this title tag, it made me feel much more confident that my selection for a ‘forgotten classic’ was valid. As I made my way through the opening ‘Publisher’s Note’, I was surprised to discover that the author of Seven Little Australians, first began writing this book on her 21st birthday! This little nugget of information really took me aback, I was amazed that a woman of this age could compose such an enduring classic.
My version of Seven Little Australians is divided into chapters with a contents page. Interspersed between the narrative are beautiful illustrations that compliment the unfolding story. Seven Little Australians is the story of a stern patriarch, a young stepmother and their gaggle of children that range in age from an infant, through to a young woman in the cusp of adulthood. Each child depicted in the book is given their own time in the spotlight. The approach Turner takes is almost like presenting the reader with an episode of each little Australian’s life. Readers will enjoy the various misadventures, debacles and sticky situations the characters in the book face at various points. Turner carefully balances light and humourous moments with tragic episodes. Seven Little Australians has the power to teach the reader, young and old, about lifelong learning, love, respect, growing up and self discovery.
Family and childhood is at the core of Ethel turner’s classic. These themes are carried over well and explored in detail. I enjoyed the commentary on childhood, play, perceptions of naughty behaviour, sibling rivalries, banter, teasing, politics and the general interactions between the family in this book. It also provides us with a good snapshot into early blended and non traditional families of the time. I felt the father figure typified the strong patriarchal image that defined this era, while casting a young stepmother as the female head of the family was an interesting touch. This is a true representation of a family unit and I admired the inherent love and care for one another the Woolcot’s displayed, through the good and bad times.
The best aspect of Seven Little Australians was the wonderful depiction of life in Sydney and NSW in the 1800s. It was nice to see this time and place through the eyes of not only an adult, but a child growing up at this point in time. It gives us a good understanding of the strict moral codes, rules, practices and ordered lives families such as the Woolcot’s inhabited at this point in our nation’s history. Although this book was published over a century ago, there are still areas that connect us together. The mischief and wonder of the Woolcots shows us that children and families have not changed greatly. Captain Woolcot struggled to keep his children under his direction, so do we as parents today!
It is imperative that from time to time, that we delve back into the literature of yesteryear. It gives us an appreciation for and a better understanding of where our writing first originated and how it has progressed. I am pleased that I had the opportunity to take a step back from reading continual new releases and launch back in time, to a period depicted with charm by the talented Ms Ethel Turner.
Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner was published in 1894. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Seven Little Australians is book #131 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge