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Historical Novels in Australia

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Historical novels have an important role in the place of every classroom. They give children something interesting to read and also have facts which make the story real. As historical novels are based on true life events units of work can be based upon them. Historical novels show the altered perspectives of life in a different time period; they explore a different world in which we can compare with life today. Historical novels can also be connected to other parts of the learning curriculum, therefore making them a great resource to have in any classroom. History is a requirement of the ACARA and Every Chance to Learn curriculum as will be explained. The book Soldier Boy: the true story of Jim Martin, the youngest ANZAC by Anthony Hill will be used as an example in this paper to demonstrate these points.

According to the 'Historical Novel Society', a historical novel is a novel which is written fifty years after the event, or is written by a person who was not alive in the time of the event and therefore has required extensive research. (Historical Novel Society, 2007). These books are written to put the time and event into context. The topics can range from being a heart warming event of love like, 'The wife of Martin Guerre' by Janet Lewis (Lewis, 1984) which is a story about Bertrande de Rols and Martin Guerre or a war story like 'Soldier Boy' by Anthony Hill (Hill, 2001). It takes years for an author to write a historical novel. First they need to research the topic or event, they then need to make sure all of the information they have gathered is relevant and true. When they begin writing they then need to base the story on actual characters or make believe the characters but use the event as the baseline of their story.

Historical novels can really assist in engaging children and help them to learn about important historical events. For example, World War I and ANZAC Day may be explained through a novel as children are always curious as to why it is such an important day for all Australians. Through reading and participating in an activity the story has children involved in learning about Australian history and gets them interacting with other units of work such as literacy.

The story 'Soldier Boy' (Hill, 2001) is based on the 'youngest ANZAC'. James Martin. He showed courage that not many 14 year olds nowadays would show. The story begins with his death aboard the hospital ship Glenart Castle, as the book progresses it goes back to his birth and continues through to his death once more. The book provides detail of the life of James and his mother, Amelia. The story tells of James' life at school, how he convinces his mother to let him put his age up and join the army. It follows him as he goes through the preparation before going overseas, as well as the time he is involved in the war. It describes his feelings as well as his mothers. The book is well written with much factual detail.

The authors note provides the reader with a real understanding of how much work went into the book. The help from the families of both James Martin and Cec Hogan James' best mate in Gallipoli, seemed to play a major role in bringing the book to life and helps engage the reader. At the end of the book there are 3 appendices, each one with its own significant meaning. The first appendix are letters to Amelia Martin, from her son James, the matron who was with James when he died, and Cec, James' best mate in Gallipoli. The second appendix was a newspaper article by the Sun-Herald in 1984 about James being the youngest known ANZAC. The final appendix was the Battalion Song. Examples such as these appendices, helps to provide for the children an insight into how things were. The strong emotional component assists in engaging the class and helps make it more meaningful. (Hill, Writing Soldier Boy, 2001)

Hill's use of pictures from James's life and family, give the children a real sense of what life was like, how things looked, and why things were so treacherous and demanding. It gives the time a sense of meaning and significance. Another benefit of this novel is that it is told from a young person's point of view. This may assist the story in connecting with children as they can relate in some aspects to James' fear and the way in which he spoke and acted. The research that has gone into this book also makes it a great resource as you know that there would be very little inaccurate, if any, details. Teachers can confidently use this novel in learning activities.

ACARA is the new national curriculum which the Australian government is hoping to implement in all of Australia's schools. (Australian Curriculum, Assesment Reporting Authority (ACARA), 2009). Under the curriculum subject of history it states that there needs to be an awareness of Australian history for all students from K-12. As this is fundamental to understanding ourselves as well as those around us. History is a study of the past; it provides knowledge, understanding and appreciation of previous events, people and ideas. We know about history through oral memories, documents, artefacts, monuments and tradition, these



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