Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women Who Shape History

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Pamela Freeman (text) and Sophie Beer (illustrator), Amazing Australian Women: Twelve Women who Helped Shape History, Hachette Australia, August 2018, 32 pp., RRP $26.95 (hbk) ISBN
9780734418456

Women empowerment has been a major movement in recent times, however women have been making a difference long before the twenty-first century. Amazing Australian Women shows how women have been shaping history since the eighteenth century until the late twentieth century. This book therefore provides valuable examples for children to recognise the contributions of females ‘from the olden days’ towards what is now a much-progressed society for women in Australia.

The author Pamela Freeman gathers a selection of twelve lesser known (but of no less importance) women who have made significant contributions to Australia, in a variety of ways. ‘Variety’ I think is one of the biggest strengths of the book – the women come from different states, from different decades, are Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, and excel in fields ranging from activism to powerful warrior. This ‘variety’ sends the message that there is no single way to succeed as a woman, a powerful and inclusive message for young readers.

Each woman features over a spread in the book. One page is dedicated to a colourful illustrated portait of the woman with related images to her life and work surrounding her by illustrator Sophie Beer. The illustrations are charming and add a lovely visual appeal to the book. Children could spend some time, individually or with prompted questioning, figuring out how the additional surrounding pictures relate to that particular women.

Opposite the illustrated page is a short synopsis of each woman’s life and achievements. Whilst as an adult reader I found the text to be minimal, and wanted to know more detail, for younger readers it is probably a good amount of text to ignite further exploration. And, as I discovered, there were ‘More Information’ pages at the end of the book providing websites for such a purpose. This is a very useful addition for time poor teachers, and very appropriate to the preference for the world wide web as a research tool for children.  

Pamela Freeman’s Amazing Australian Women is a great book that fills a gap for non-fiction children’s text about Australian female role models. Presenting non-fiction information for children is a delicate balance – between providing information that ignites children’s interest but doesn’t overwhelm them with too much text. I think Freeman has done a brilliant job and I would recommend this book for 7-10 year old children (girls and boys). 

Reviewed by Julie Bertola

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