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Foolish and Fearless Convict Escapes: Get Me Out of Here by Pauline Deeves, illustrated by Brent Wilson

Title: Foolish and Fearless Convict Escapes: Get Me Out of Here

Lots of men and women looking out of windows and climbing up sheets to escape a jail. Get Me Out of Here by Pauline Deeves.

Author: Pauline Deeves, illustrated by Brent Wilson

Genre: History, Non-Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 31st May 2022

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 64

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: Full of crims, crooks and rascally runaways, this fun and light-hearted non-fiction title is a colourful celebration of our convict past

Meet the convicts behind Australia’s most rascally, dastardly prison escapes. Gifted geniuses or total goofballs? You be the judge!

Featuring Moondyne Joe, Mary Bryant, and a guy who put on a kangaroo skin and hopped away (literally), this fun and engaging collection brings our country’s early colonial past to life.

~*~

Australia’s fraught and diverse history involves the presence of convicts throughout the mainland and islands from 1788 and into the 1800s. Yet even as the convicts worked off their sentences, there would always be those who tried to escape – and some succeeded. Those that escaped did so in various ways such as cross dressing or heading to live with local Indigenous people. Many were caught and put back in gaol, whilst others were never heard from again. And each convict meets with their own fate, and we get an insight into the stories of people like Mary Bryant, Moondyne Joe and many others who had been forced to leave their homes.

It presents history in a fun, and accessible way, as the convicts get to tell their stories as though they are writing a letter, diary entry, or giving a speech to other people about what they had been through. It gives insight into one part of Australian history, and allows kids in primary school to get some understanding of what it was like to be a convict, what drove people to escape, and the ways people tried to overcome the authorities, as well as teaching kids about some of the most notorious prisons across Australia, and where they were, and when they closed down, and what they function as now, if they still do function.

Keeping in mind that this is just one aspect of Australia’s history, we learn of at least one convict who spent twenty years living with a local Indigenous group, and that chapter was written in consultation with the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, giving us an example of white people living with Indigenous people and the ways they might have interacted that were perhaps not always talked about in the past. Yet I am finding that these days, we’re finding out more about interactions of all kinds, and I feel like this is going to build a deeper understanding of our history in this country.

Books like this will be great in an educational environment for ages six and up, and into all levels of school as a good supplementary or introductory text about convicts, and from there, students can explore these stories on a deeper level.  Having a diverse range of books that speak about Australian history is a good thing, as we can learn so much more than what we have learnt before as new stories and discoveries are made.

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