Author: Neridah McMullin, illustrated by Sarah Anthony
Publisher: Walker Books Australia
Published: 8th September 2021
Synopsis: The true story of an important pioneering woman in Australian history.
Courageous, clever and daring, Drover is one of a kind. Travelling through the heart of the outback, Drover delivers a mob of cattle. Searing heat, dust and flies, hardship and danger: these are just part of the job. But there’s no place Drover would rather be. The truly remarkable story of legendary drover Edna Jessop is celebrated through stunning oil illustrations and evocative text.
- Author Neridah McMullin has a keen interest in Australian drovers as her grandfather was a stockman. This inspired her to write a story about the outback, the grit needed to survive, the beauty of fenceless, open country and the love a drover has for their horse.
- An ideal text for classes to discuss, Drover is particularly useful as a resource to support the HASS curriculum for years 1-3.
- Explores the little-known yet important story of a significant Australian female figure and enriches our understanding of our nation’s past.
Many droving stories and poems celebrate the men – Clancy of the Overflow as a notable one, and as is often found, the women are hidden from the accounts or stories, ignored or removed. One name that we may not know much about is drover Edna Jessop, one of Australia’s pioneering women. Until I read this picture book by Neridah McMullin, I’d never heard of Edna Jessop – the names of women I learnt about in history those of suffragettes, the odd political figure, or nurses in the wars. It was a history of triumphs on the battlefields of Gallipoli – interesting enough, but always something missing – missing stories, events, figures and perspectives that when combined with the masculine stories of war and the outback, help to give more life and vigour to history, more of a human face that makes it relatable and interesting.
Books like this give history life and historical figures that we may not have known about before life and a place in our history books, and shows kids that yes, women and men filled many varied roles throughout history, not just the ones that the history books tell us about when we first read them. It is because someone would have decided what to share and what not to share that means we don’t always get to find out about women like Edna. Knowing these stories can go a long way to showing that the assumptions and gender stereotypes perpetuated by certain narratives are not necessarily always true.
This book was a joy to read, and is perfect for teaching history and social studies at an early level in junior school, and could even be used in secondary and tertiary education in a variety of ways, depending on what the course or unit of study requires or examines in conjunction with other texts and historical resources. Whilst a quick Google search revealed little more about Edna’s life than what I read about in the book, it would be interesting to see if there are other books out there that we have not come across yet or if there are others to come. At the moment, we can use this book to teach kids aged four and older about the droving days, what they did, how hard it was and about remarkable women like Edna Jessop.