Review Blog

Sep 26 2017

Outback adventure by Jane Smith

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Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy book 4. Big Sky Publishing, 2017. ISBN 9781925520842
(Age: 7-9) Recommended. Bushrangers. Australian history. Time travel. Author Jane Smith continues to weave fact and fiction together in her Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy series. Henry 'Harry' Readford was a cattle rustler whose gang stole a thousand head of cattle from a Queensland station in the late 1800s and took them across country to the Adelaide auctions. He was a horse thief as well; his exploits used to develop the character Captain Starlight in the novel Robbery under Arms.
Young Tommy Bell is off for the school holidays with his friend Martin on the family's Bowen Downs Station in central Queensland. No one knows Tommy's time-travelling secrets, not even his best friend. Tommy's loyal horse Combo joins them and the boys enjoy exploring the countryside on horseback. When Martin discovers a pair of dusty boots hidden in a small rocky cavern, Tommy realises that they have a special ability. Both boys are off on a time-travelling adventure as soon as Martin tries them on and Tommy puts on his cabbage-tree hat. On horseback, they ride into the middle of nowhere and meet up with some scruffy looking men droving a large herd of cattle across country. Henry 'Harry' Readford their leader welcomes the boys and invites them along for the long ride, sleeping under the stars and sharing meals around the campfire. There are plenty of adventures, long days riding, lost in the bush and a chance meeting with a helpful Aboriginal man. They become suspicious of Harry's dealings with the townsfolk in Arcoona, as his stories keep changing and so does his name. Tommy realises that they are helping rustler Henry Readford and his gang steal a thousand head of cattle from the McKenzie's Bowen Station. After a week, they are ready to escape from the dangerous situation so Martin removes his stinky boots and Tommy takes off his sweaty hat. Back in the present, the boys research the life of Henry Readford and discover he changed his ways later in his life, becoming a property owner.
These junior novels are an excellent resource; they support the Year 5 History Curriculum and provide understanding of the historical era, making them an easy to use research tool - comparing and contrasting daily life, transport and the motives behind the bushrangers' actions.
Rhyllis Bignell

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