This non-fiction account of the life and works of Patrick Victor Martindale White is told in simple terms to introduce Australian upper primary school children to Australia’s most celebrated and most famous author – the only Australian author to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. It traces Patrick White’s journey from his birth to wealthy Australian graziers in 1912, through his upbringing and schooling in Australia and England, his war service, literary works, involvement in community, awards and his enduring legacy to literature. Appendices include a “Time Line” listing publications dates of his works and a list of “Notable Awards”.
Middle readers in Australia are learning to find their place in the mini-society that is school and the broader community, learning to face their own fears and insecurities and sometimes illnesses, are confronted with bullies and domineering peers and are grasping with their idea of self and what they want to be in life which sometimes conflicts with how their parents see them and the expectations their parents have for them.
This is not very different to the Australian generations that have gone before and not different at all to what Patrick White experienced as a child. He was bullied at school, full of self-doubt, was sick all his life with asthma and in and out of hospital, and his parents wanted him to be something other than what he wanted to be. As a child he did not mix easily with other children: he played with them but made no friends. Patrick White was private and solitary with a mother who wanted him to aim in all things above Australian standards. When he was growing up he often asked himself the question: “What will I be when I grow up?” something that middle readers can empathise with.
As children learn to cope with who they are, the influences on their lives, and what they will become, they turn to “story” to explore how others have lived and coped, assimilating from books what they need into their own lives. So, Toni was hoping that the children who read her book with find something in it of value to them, even if it is just the faith and self-belief to be what they want to be and not what someone else tells them they should be.