Paul Stafford, Peter Lalor’s Flag (McGoogly Gang Series #3), New Holland Publishers, May 2018, 320 pp., RRP $16.99, (pbk) ISBN 9781921024931
The McGoogly Gang are a group of unusual children who go on adventures through time on other people’s memories: this time it is to the Australian Gold Rush and the Eureka Stockade. It follows their previous adventures in Ned Kelly’s Helmet and Captain Flinders’ Map.
Stafford wrote these books to encourage reluctant boys to read. He uses a number of interesting techniques: shock tactics – I thought the first line included a four letter word, but it was merely a reference to a donkey; time travel and a variety of bullies of varying levels of evilness. My favourite one being the diabolically scheming teacher who puts her students through enormous discomfort so they understand what war is really like, and also so she can use their sufferings to make a pile of money. And then she uses her ill-gotten gains to buy sport equipment for the school: how sadistic can you get?
Peter Lalor’s Flag has numerous plots as well as references to the two previous books in the series – which makes it a mite confusing, but no less exciting. It fact, it encouraged a second read which was no sacrifice on my part.
Besides the details about mining for gold, Chinese medicines and Peter Lalor, the book is full of not generally known facts too, such as:
· Some of the Chinese who came to Australia during the Gold Rush became indentured labourers who could be sold
· The length of the Chinese pigtail depended on the age and experience of the person
· The Aboriginal word ‘Gubba’ to mean government person was being used in the 1850s
· Ballarat was originally spelled Ballaarat.
Peter Lalor’s Flag is a great book suitable for upper and middle primary school aged children. It would also be useful for anyone who wants to improve their knowledge of Australian history. I might check out Ned Kelly’s Helmet and Captain Flinders’ Map for myself.
Reviewed by Katy Gerner