Series: My Australian Story
Published by Scholastic Australia on 2001
Genres: fiction, historical, junior fiction, middle fiction
Source: ARC received from publisher
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Mary Talence has been given a diary for her 10th birthday, and in it she documents her life at Bomaderry Aboriginal Children's Home. When a white couple fosters Mary, she must deal with a new family, environment and culture. But all the time, memories of Mary's past continue to confuse her.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect reading The Diary of Mary Talence. I knew that it raised the issue of Australia’s Stolen Generation and I wasn’t sure how this complex and emotive issue would translate into a fictional story for younger readers.
I think Anita Heiss does a wonderful job of introducing the concept of the Stolen Generation to her audience. The book deals with the aspects of the situation that younger readers could most easily relate to – Mary’s sense of confusion and grief at being separated from those she cares about and her sense of isolation and personal identity issues arising from the mixed messages she receives about the Aboriginal people and her need to pretend that she is ‘white’.
Mary shares her story well through one year of diary entries, mixing more serious thoughts on the deeper issues affecting her with a commentary on life in late 1930s Australia. While Mary’s separation from her family may not be something that most readers will easily relate to, there are many other opportunities that they may more easily connect with as Mary deals with bullies, homework, sports carnivals and family life.
Despite the serious historical issue that is central to the story, the book maintains a very positive feel and Mary is a charming narrator.
I enjoyed reading this book and I’m keen for my 11-year-old son to read it as well. This is the kind of story that parents might want to chat with their children about once they have finished reading as thoughtful readers are likely to have some questions that aren’t answered by the text or the historical note at the conclusion of the book.
This is review is part of my contribution to the Literary Road Trip hosted by GalleySmith. I am highlighting authors from New South Wales, Australia
- How young is too young? – How old should children be before they read books about serious issues?