Children’s Book Week Review – Matthew Flinders

Link to Catalogue record for Matthew Flinders - Adventures on Leaky Ships

Matthew Flinders – Adventures on Leaky Ships by Carole Wilkinson and illustrated by Prue Pittock

This book was Shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year Awards – Eve Pownall Award for information books.

Matthew Flinders was a country boy who wanted to be a sailor. He lived at a time when ocean voyages took months, sometimes years. His life at sea was full of adventure and danger. He was the first to sail all the way around Australia. He drew the first complete map of the continent. Sailing was a dangerous business in Matthew’s time that could end in shipwreck, disease or death. He wanted to make it safer for sailors by making his map as accurate as possible.

Matthew Flinders – Adventures on Leaky Ships is a great read.

If you’re like me, and you know a little about Australian history but not a lot and the name Matthew Flinders rings bells but is mostly resigned to someone who did stuff and explored around the time of the First Fleet, then this book is for you.

The author does a great job crafting the narrative non-fiction and I can certainly see why this book made it to the Notable list.

I had either forgotten, or never retained, that Matthew Flinders is the person who named our lovely country Australia. In addition, he was the first European to map the Great Australian Bight and discovered that Van Dieman’s Land was not in fact attached to the mainland of Australia as well as disproving the notion that there must be a strait running through the country. He also named a island after his future wife.

But this book is about more than his enduring legacy, it’s also a tale of dreams, perseverance, overcoming leaky ships, and being a good person.

Sailing at any time is difficult but at that time it was rife with scurvy, dysentery, hardship and death but in more than one case the author highlights how Matthew Flinders cared for the people sailing with him and made sure they were taken care of.

Being a non-fiction book there is also some great info about the tools of sailors, the reasons his ships were always leaking, and life at the time without diving so deeply into any topic that you lose the story threads.

There is even a mention of the Noongar people in the book from when Flinders was mapping the southern coast of the country. Apart from this, and a few other mentions, it doesn’t look deeply into his interactions with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but focusses on the journeys he took, the boats he sailed, and the legacies that endure.

This book is a great read for anyone who needs a narrative non-fiction for a school project, anyone who likes history, and other adults out there who don’t remember too much, and any kid who is interested. If you are reading this with a child, then you can share it with a child of any age. If they are independent readers I think this would be 8+. If you read it and would like to tell me what you thought please comment below.

I won’t be at all surprised to see this on the shortlist next week, my prediction (I’m never right but I hope there will be a first time).
Update: 30/03/21 – This book did end up on the Shortlist, congratulations to the creators.