Litttle Carole doesn’t want to move to Australia.
After all, England is home. Carole’s just started school. She doesn’t want to leave her friends. But her parents won’t have it; faced with the threat of Cuban Missiles, they are convinced that Australia is safer a place to live. And so the family set off.
During the 1960s, British migrants immigrated to Australia as a part of the ‘Ten Pound Pom’ scheme. Ten Pound Pom is, as of writing, the only published Australian picture book to address this subject. It is a part of the award-winning Walker Book’s Our Story series.
The book itself is an autobiographical account of Carole Wilkinson’s own journey to Australia as a Ten Pound Pom.
The prose is simple and easy for young children to understand, yet still evocatively written. It’s a beautiful way to introduce younger children to historical narrative nonfiction, presented with pictures. Parts of the story do tug upon the heartstrings; echoes of neighbours waving the family off, a grandmother who won’t accept their departure, new friends met aboard the Arcadia, hellos and goodbyes of all kinds. Still, whenever one story comes to an end, another story begins and the adventure continues. It’s as though we are reading the personal diary of little Carole.
Liz Anelli’s illustrations reinforce Carole’s telling of the story, embellishing the words with illustrative touches of historical ephemera heavily associated with place and memory; readers are privy to cartographic diagrams, letters to and from characters, and observation sketches drawn by main character Carole as she goes on her journey.
The beautifully designed end-papers of the book are riddled with even more ephemera; furniture, used crockery, old timey velocipedes and other family belongings. Beautiful painterly renditions of England and Australia splash across and loop around pages in clever cartographic compositions, which celebrate not only the different architectural styles of different countries, but also the ’spaces’ in which these different styles of architecture sit. These small touches both delight the eye and tickle the brain, as the written words interweave harmoniously with the illustrations. Like Wilkinson, Anelli too immigrated from England to Australia (though far more recently), which explains how powerfully she could translate Wilkinson’s experience into pictures. Between the two creators lies shared history, a shared connection to place.
Here I must admit – I am a big Anelli art fan. You got me! I can’t resist gushing, because Anelli’s loose designs are a signature style all her own, her pictures a joyful blend of playful childish expressiveness and sophisticated design.
Pouring over each sketch, I’m immediately reminded of the illustrative flair of artists like Quentin Blake, Saul Steinberg and Ronald Searle. Her designs, fluidly penned and awash with collage and watercolour, capture the movement of a scene – Anelli’s characters simply dance across pages. The effect is such that readers, alongside the families aboard the Arcadia, become drawn into this flow of movement and – by extension – the bigger journey unfolding, with its boats and currents, its crowds and cities. Other delightful design tricks abound. For example, with each turn of a page, as the characters move from England to Australia, there is notably a distinct gradation in the artist’s palette; the colours in each scene growing ever vibrant and warmer still, reflecting a sense of travel and seasonal change. All these things reinforce central themes of movement, of migration, of transformation and the flow of time.
There is a lot of history in Ten Pound Pom for teacher librarians, teachers and parents to uncover and discuss with little ones.
After the story, readers can pour over an informative two-page spread on the Migrant Scheme, a list of facts about the Arcadia, as well as a detailed glossary of historical terms. These additions provide extra context and value to the main narrative. Again, it’s a useful resource for teachers, teacher librarians, or even young readers interested in Australian history, and a lovely companion book for anyone studying diasporas and migrant stories in Australia (it would be fantastic used in support whilst studying books about other migrant populations). Liz Anelli has even provided a Teacher’s Resource on her creative research process and creation of Ten Pound Pom online – definitely check it out!
At the book’s end, Carole and her family arrive in Australia.
The beach stretches out before her. And it’s beautiful. It’s so beautiful, even little Carole can’t help but change her mind. Maybe things here in Australia won’t be so bad after all.
It’s a lovely gentle reminder that, even after reaching a final destination, one’s inner journey never really ends.
And that, in itself, is a very moving realisation indeed.
Lucie Towers is a writer and illustrator from Sydney, NSW. She is a Committee Member of the CBCA NSW Branch, and a children’s bookseller. She is passionate about storytelling, picture books, middle-grade, YA, graphic novels and feeding gremlins your long-lost odd socks (don’t tell mum!). She doesn’t have social media yet, but if you yodel really loud from the highest mountain, she might hear you.