When you’re young, history is learned in snatches—a story here, an idea there—all designed to offer a sense of one's own place in the history that is being made today. Trouble is, the snatches approach can sometimes inadvertently lead to whitewashed or selective understanding.
If you’re looking to share snatches of Australian history that are respectful, balanced, and full of interest, M is for Mutiny is perfect. It’s an alphabet book (for which I’m always a sucker) and the illustrations, as you can see, are superb.*
There’s a conversational tone to the text. It’s history written without embellishment, but with warmth and personality.
Not every letter refers to a person or object. There are concepts and ideas scattered throughout the book—such as A is for Acknowledgement to Country, and U is for Uproar (+ others).
The alphabetical format means that there’s no chronology to the events—so there’s no need to read it in order. Just pick a picture or an idea that appeals and start there. For instance (click the images to enlarge):
K is for Kangaroo:
“A story that Cook confused a word that meant ‘I don’t understand you’ with ‘Kangaroo’ is not true.”
N is for Nurture:
“On arriving in Sydney, [Caroline Chisholm] was appalled at how many women were unemployed, often living in slum-like housing, and offered little hope.”
U is for Uproar:
“When Aboriginal resistance to the European invasion erupted, there was an uproar.”
The history more or less ends in the late 1800’s, so there’s no mention of more recent events or immigrations, but there are nods to current affairs like Acknowledgement to Country, and there's a mention of the famous Mabo land rights High Court case.
Australian children will naturally feel a sense of connection to the stories and history, and it's an ideal gift for overseas friends and visitors. For parents and educators, I’m sure you’ll love this book as much as I do, and I hope you manage to find a copy when it's released on 1 November.
* Bern Emmerichs also illustrated The Startling Story of Lachlan Macquarie : Founding Father or Failure?, The Unlikely Story of Bennelong and Phillip, and William Bligh: A Stormy Story of Tempestuous Times. Beautifully detailed and fascinating books all.