Jackie French (text), and Dave Hackett (illustrator), Gold Rush: Fair Dinkum Histories – All the Stinky Bits, Scholastic Australia, February 2020, 160 pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760667634
Gold Rush: Fair Dinkum Histories – All the Stinky Bits is a factual book that chronicles the various gold rushes that occurred in Australia’s early history. As the title suggests, emphasis is given to the ‘stinky bits’, that is the consequences of overcrowding, minimal town planning and poor personal hygiene practices. With humorous illustrations by Dave Hackett this book provides a clear and earthy picture of life (and death) during the Gold Rush period and concludes with comment about the lasting environmental impact of mining. The book is well researched and presents a wealth of knowledge for young readers interested in life in early Australia, mining, gold, or disease.
The publisher recommends the book for children aged 7 years and older. The text is written in language appropriate for this age group. However, the some of the subject matter of the book is suited to an older audience (late primary/early high school). For example, in recounting the Eureka Stockade, detail is provided about the slashing and burning of tents, including that the wounded miners inside the tents were burnt to death. Rape, murder and torture are also mentioned in the text. Further, graphic detail is provided about a skin condition called Barcoo rot, death from tuberculosis, and amputation of limbs as a result of miner’s foot. I would not recommend this book for people with weak stomachs.
I read an uncorrected proof copy for this review. It was clear that the author, illustrator and editor were still at work to produce the final book. One issue that I hope is resolved in the final book is text boxes that run from an odd page to an even page. Without some kind of signal e.g. cont’d to indicate that the text box continues on the next page, being presented with a half-completed sentence or idea can be confusing.
This book provides valuable information about Australia’s history including mistakes made and as such is not an easy read. Discretion is recommended for parents, carers, and educators considering recommending this resource to young readers.
Reviewed by Anne Varnes