The Grace Stories written by Sofie Laguna
Published by the Penguin Group
A thrilling social, historical adventure set in the early 1800s, about a young orphan girl’s fight to survive starvation and poverty on the streets of London, and her discovery of a whole new life in an unfamiliar land called Australia.
Grace is a mudlark scavenging on the banks of London’s River Thames for anything that she can sell in order to buy food for herself and lazy beer-drinking uncle Ord. Grace is a kind and compassionate child, with a great interest and adoration of the working horses she sees trotting along the cobbled streets of London.
When Grace is caught stealing apples to feed an ill and starving horse, she is arrested and incarcerated in the notorious Newgate Prison. Grace mercifully escapes the gallows, but is sentenced to seven years of servitude and transportation to the colonies instead. She survives the long and arduous sea voyage onboard the Australia bound convict ship, called Indispensable, and eventually arrives safely in Sydney Cove, where she is taken on as a servant by Tom and Beth, who are settlers expecting their first baby.
Grace gradually adjusts to her new life in the southern lands and works hard for her master and mistress. She delights in the discovery of the mysterious and fascinating Aboriginal people, and is astonished at the profusion of strange plants and animals, but her greatest thrill is to find that Tom owns a beautiful horse called Glory.
Grace’s inner strength and courageousness are put to the test when she saves Beth from dying in childbirth, by riding Glory through a heavy storm to fetch medical help. Beth’s baby is safely delivered, and Grace is finally accepted into her new family.
Sofie Laguna’s book vividly portrays the cruel hardships of London’s poor at the time of the Industrial Revolution, who were living in decrepit slums, or even out on the cold and filthy streets.
Grace is a delightful character and the reader can’t help but be captivated by her beautiful spirit. Although it’s a long read, four books in one, the reader will be totally gripped by Sofie’s magical storytelling and will find it hard to put the book down. The descriptive accounts of Grace’s first experiences and discoveries of the flora, fauna and indigenous people of Australia are so evocative in enabling the reader to ‘see’ and understand the experiences of our own ancestors.
The Grace Stories are an enthralling and satisfying way of engaging children in learning about the fascinating history of our country. Lucia Mascillo’s charming and decorative illustrations at the start of each chapter, and at the end of paragraphs, assist in carrying the momentum of the significant events in Grace’s story and also aids in dividing the text into manageable amounts for younger readers to enjoy.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Sofie Laguna
Illustrator: Lucia Mascillo
Title: The Grace Stories
Publisher: Penguin Group