M is for Mutiny! History by Alphabet (John Dickson, illus by Bern Emmerichs, Berbay)
An alphabet book designed specifically for the middle-primary reader, M is for Mutiny! is a brilliant crash course in Australian history for those interested in learning more about significant events and characters in our nation’s colonial past, but are deterred by prose-heavy textbooks. From the very beginning (‘A is for Acknowledgment of Country’), you know that John Dickson’s book will be respectful and inclusive of Indigenous history and culture. What’s great about M is for Mutiny! is its political scope. Of course, ‘F is for First Fleet’, and there’s no surprise that ‘E is for Endeavour’ nor that ‘G is for Government House’, but Dickson also adds ‘L is for Land Rights’ and ‘T for Terra Nullius’. Each letter of the alphabet has a paragraph of explanatory text. Dickson does not try to whitewash some of the more brutal aspects of Australia’s early past (indeed, ‘Q is for Questionable Acts’) but presents them in clear, accessible prose, with some quirky additions. (You may know that the banksia plant and Bankstown were named after botanist Joseph Banks, but who knew he hated bananas?) Bern Emmerichs’ accompanying illustrations to Australia’s first settlements stories are finely wrought pieces of art and gloriously detailed. Her work is borne of both fact and imagination.
Thuy On is a freelance arts journalist and reviewer and the books editor of the Big Issue