MEET ROSE’S CREATOR, SHERRYL CLARK
Sherryl Clark was born in New Zealand and learnt a lot about European history at school but nothing about Australia. She had no idea how the government worked, or that the states were independent until Federation. Now she lives in Australia and in writing the story of Our Australian Girl Rose knows more about Federation than most Aussies!
Sherryl is visiting Kids’ Book Capers today to share the journey that she and Rose have taken together.
What did you enjoy most/find hardest about the research process?
Initially, I thought that Federation would be really hard to write a fictional story around, until I discovered this was also the time when the suffragettes were really active in their battle for the vote for women.
The more I researched about this, the more my story started to come alive. Then I came up with the idea that Rose would play cricket, and be really good at it, but of course at that time it would be frowned upon.
The best part of Federation research was discovering that this was very likely the time when the big Melbourne-Sydney rivalry started! The hardest was, as always, verifying facts – dates, who said what and when. I liked finding out things such as the bubonic plague in Sydney.
What did it feel like to walk in Rose’s shoes?
I searched on the internet until I found an old photo that looked like how I imagined Rose, my character. That, along with the suffragette information and the cricket/bowling talent helped to bring Rose to life for me.
I like to work from images, so I found a photo of a house I thought might have been her family home, and old photos of Bourke Street where her father’s Emporium might have been. All of the photos I found helped in one way or another – I could then imagine Rose in the middle of all of that, and what she would have been most interested in.
What is the most inspiring thing you discovered about Rose?
Although I loved turning Rose into the “real” Shane Warne with her spin bowling talents, what I think really brings her to life is her growing realisation of how life is for the poor in her city. Her family is wealthy, but simply from observing and listening, Rose comes to see that her life is privileged and that she is lucky – it makes her compassionate and someone who wants to help in real terms.
How do you think you would have survived living in Rose’s era?
I think I would have hated living in that era! The clothing was ugly, the corsets were damaging to women’s bodies and the food wasn’t very nice either.
I would have been a troublemaker like Aunt Alice, throwing off the corset and staging sitdown protests. Women were treated like pieces of furniture, and I get mad enough about inequality now, let alone back then.
What significant historical events are covered in your books?
Federation, of course – the lead-up, the proclamation and the first sitting of Parliament, and also the death of Queen Victoria. Melbourne at that time had very few houses with electricity or telephones, there were few cars (although some enterprising Australians were building their own), and we still had hansom cabs, cable and horse-drawn trams and trains.
One of my favourite things to write about was Coles Arcade – there was a lot more I could have included but space restrictions meant it had to be taken out.
A REVIEW OF ROSE’S STORIES
Rose is the only one of the Our Australian Girls who comes from a privileged background where there is plenty of money and food but Rose has hardships of her own.
Rose is a feisty adventurous girl struggling to be ‘herself’ in a world of corsets, oversized hats and hairpins that made your head ache. She wants the freedom that boys have – to climb trees and ride bikes.
She wants to be like her beloved Aunt Alice who refuses to wear a corset and is campaigning for women’s right to vote.
In book one, MEET ROSE, readers meet Rose at her large house in Melbourne where she would rather play cricket and have adventures than be a ‘lady’ – where she is constantly in trouble for going out without her hat and parasol.
When Aunt Alice comes to stay, Rose’s life changes for the better, but unfortunately her mother and her aunt don’t see eye to eye. Rose has a loving older sister, Martha and a brother Edward whom she idolises, but seems to have problems of his own.
In book two, ROSE ON WHEELS, things get even worse. Mother seems intent on hiring a dreadful new governess, Miss Higgingbottom. Rose doesn’t want a governess, she wants to go to school like her brother, Edward.
Then it looks as if Aunt Alice is going to move to Adelaide to accept a teaching position and Rose will have nobody who truly understands her.
Rose borrows a bike and rides to Melbourne to her father’s work. Her intention is to get him to persuade his sister Aunt Alice to stay.
But things don’t go according to plan and what happens to her while she is riding Aunt Alice’s bike is going to incur the wrath of both parents and her aunt. Will she be able to persuade Aunt Alice to stay? Will she get her wish and be sent to school and avoid the awful Miss Higgingbottom?
Rose lived in an era when it was a lot harder to get around than today. There were few cars and most forms of transport were pulled by horses. Bicycles like the one Rose rides became very popular.
Rose’s story is full of historical detail, and young readers will be fascinated with Rose’s world and the things that young girls weren’t allowed to do back in the early 1900s. I loved her feisty character and think readers will do. Rose is not afraid to flout convention and stand up for what she believes in.
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