Sing A Rebel Song by Pamela Rushby
Published by Scholastic Australia
‘Sing A Rebel Song’ is a historical fiction for readers over 10. Set in Barcaldine, Queensland during one of the most poignant social and political periods in Australia’s history, the novel follows the story of Maggie McAllister, daughter of a union leader, during the Shearer’s Strike of 1891.
Maggie has been keeping journal notes on scrap pieces of paper and finally sits down to record them into a diary. As she writes in her diary, she adds more background and context, narrating firsthand accounts of unfolding events witnessed from within the union inner circle. Maggie becomes a correspondent for a newspaper and is drawn deeper into the struggle.
As Maggie becomes more personally involved in the action, her close friendship with the station owner’s children Clara and James becomes strained. They offer an opposing point of view politically and some insight into the complexity of what almost became a civil war.
Other characters also flesh out the human struggle of the strike; a sick, old shearer comes to live with the family and a young boy is forced to leave school and take a non union shearing job to support his mother.
The tension builds as the conflict increases steadily. Maggie is hungry and frustrated, expressing the experience of so many at this time. A glimmer of romance provides some lighter moments and a resolution for the family is finally found when they decide to emigrate to South America.
As mentioned in the Author’s note, the Barcaldine shearers strike gave rise to the formation of the People’s Parliamentary Association later that year. The following year a Shearer was elected to parliament, and the following year the Queensland labour party was formed. Although the main characters are fictitious, the events described did occur and some characters, like members of the strike committee did exist. This book offers a fresh perspective on a profoundly important period of history now mostly forgotten.
Award winning author Pamela Rushby has a gift for historical fiction and has obviously researched her subject thoroughly.
Storytelling conveys history to children in an engaging and informative way and this book manages to do accomplish that whilst also providing a gripping yarn.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Pamela Rushby
Title: Sing A Rebel Song
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Published: October 2015