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BOOK REVIEW: Ten Pound Pom written by Carole Wilkinson and illustrated by Liz Anelli

BOOK REVIEW: Ten Pound Pom written by Carole Wilkinson and illustrated by Liz Anelli

Walker Books Australia
October 2017
Hardcover, $27.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Children & Teenagers / Young Adults > Children’s Non-Fiction / History & The Past for Children & Teenagers

8.5/10

Australia is a country that is made up of many immigrants. Their stories are celebrated in our immigration museums and in special monuments like the Welcome Wall in Sydney, which immortalises the names of some individuals on a bronze plate. Australian author, Carole Wilkinson shares her own story of being a Ten Pound Pom in Walker Books’ “Our Stories” series. She was one of many people to arrive here through the UK-Australia Assisted Passage Agreement during 1947 to 1982 and this story forms the basis of her new picture book titled, Ten Pound Pom.

I don’t want to go to Australia. I have just started grammar school. My best friend Sally goes there too. We’re learning Latin and French.
Two weeks ago, my family and I put on our best clothes and caught a train to Birmingham, where a man asked us questions to make sure we’ll be good migrants… Dad has always wanted to live in Australia, ever since he was a boy. When he married Mum, she didn’t want to emigrate and leave her family… Dad has finally convinced Mum to go to Australia.

Ten Pound Pom is a book that is aimed at older readers in the later stages of primary school and early high school and this is reflected in the use of words like “artesian wells”, “corroborees”, and “coolabah trees”, to name a few. Wilkinson’s prose is quite descriptive and dense, as she delivers her first-person account of travelling here in 1963. Wilkinson recreates the thrill and adventure of this passage from the point-of-view of her 12-year-old self as she and her family travel from the dark and grey England to the bright and shiny, light-filled Australia.

The next morning we pass Beachy Head.
It looks cold and grey.
“Say goodbye to England,” Dad says.
Mum doesn’t say anything.
Then we are out of the English Channel and into the Bay of Biscay. The sea is rough. The wind is icy.

The journey was a long one but unlike the passage of the early settlers, it was not an arduous one. For many of the passengers on board ships like the Arcadia, the trip was virtually a month-long holiday as they sailed through the Mediterranean Sea and the Suez Canal and they stopped to port at places like Italy, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and Perth.

I sleep for a while, then get up again at 6am, as we are sailing down the Suez Canal. It’s strange to have land so close on both sides of the ship after seeing nothing but sea. On one side is Arabia and on the other Egypt. Mostly they are both just sand; occasionally there are palm trees, and men in long robes. I see some camels.
We have to stop in Lake Timsah to let a convoy of ships pass us going the other way.

This book is illustrated by Liz Anelli who is also an Australian-English immigrant. The pictures are very detailed and support the story well. This is especially evident as the lead character collects souvenirs and experiences along the way.

We arrive at Fremantle. It’s our first sight of Australia, which is exciting.
We go on a bus tour of Perth. After seeing foreign places, Australia looks more British, but it is also different. There are a lot of gum trees. Everyone lives in bungalows. And there really are black swans, just like on my tea cards. It’s cooler than I expected. Dad says that even though it’s spring in England, in Australia it’s autumn.

It is obvious that Wilkinson is a keen history fan. This book also contains facts that she has researched about the Arcadia ship as well as a glossary, index and some background information about the UK-Australia Free and Assisted Passage Agreement. It also describes why immigration was so strong in this country at that point in time. In the aftermath of the Second World War Australia had a population of 7 million people. It had been threatened during World War II with the bombing in Darwin and Australia’s long coastline remaining largely undefended. The government felt that the answer at the time was to fill the country with immigrants from specific countries (this was at a time prior to the White Australia Policy being abolished.)

When we wake up, the ship has already docked in Adelaide. Brian and I rush up on deck. There are crowds of people waiting on the wharf. We have sailed 11,397 miles, lost eight and a half hours and skipped summer.

Stories like Ten Pound Pom are important because they help document the history of Australia. Wilkinson’s book will educate a new generation of young people about her journey to the land of Oz and it is stories like these that should help promote understanding and tolerance about the plight of immigrants and refugees. Even though Wilkinson’s story is set in the sixties and her journey takes place via ship, it should still resonate with people who have made this trip themselves or whose ancestors have travelled to this country seeking a new life and opportunities, just as Wilkinson and her family did. May we all come together and celebrate this wonderful land of Oz.

BOOK REVIEW: Ten Pound Pom written by Carole Wilkinson and illustrated by Liz Anelli

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