MEET THE FLYING DOCTORS
by George Ivanoff, illustrated by Ben Wood – Random House Australia, 2016
ages 2 to 8 years / Australia, diversity, nonfiction, powerful lives
One of my uncles was a pilot for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) a few years ago—it was a terribly romantic profession. The goodness and ingenuity of the RFDS is widely agreed upon all around Australia. But, as Australia continues to be quickly urbanised, fewer of us have personal connections and stories about the Flying Doctors and the pilots and the nurses.
That’s where Meet the Flying Doctors comes in, telling the story of John Flynn, the founder of the Service, and giving a broad-brush historical overview. It’s nicely done with a young boy's personal story bookending the historical parts.
There are things I really like about this book:
The story is told without being overly romanticised, but it’s still light and easy to read—a tricky balance to strike. The words and pictures work beautifully together in telling the story and weaving its wonderful history.
The illustrations do a great job of connecting life in the past with present day Australia. They’re interesting and inviting and the various characters seem like people you might know.
There are lots of details that are touched on but not laboured, leaving room for further exploration if it takes your fancy. The morse code page, for example, is terrific—there’s just enough detail in the words to explain the pictures and the page entices the reader to go hunting for more.
A small reading hint:
After you’ve read the book a few times, you might want to hunt down some more information. The RFDS website is really good, there’s a page of stories told by people the RFDS have helped. And you can see where all of the 68 RFDS planes are around Australia in real time here. It's fascinating and would be a cool teaching aid.
Meet the Flying Doctors is part of the “meet’ series—there’s Meet Ned Kelly, Banjo Paterson, Nancy Bird Walton, Mary MacKillop and 7 more. They’re great: with just the right amount and combination of storytelling and easy reading history, they leave a sense of wonder and pride at the achievements and sacrifices of early Australians.