‘Zeven kleine Australiërs’ by Ethel Turner is a classic children’s novel about the adventures and misfortunes of seven siblings who live on a farm in Australia. It is originally written in English and published in 1894 under the title ‘Seven Little Australians’.
It is translated and edited by Marie ten Brink and published by G.B. van Goor Zonen in Gouda in 1896.
The book has been reprinted several times, most recently in 2017. The book is considered one of the first Australian books to present realistic children’s characters, rather than idealised ones. It has also been adapted into a TV series, a musical and a stage play.
Seven Little Australians
Ethel Turner (24 January 1870 – 8 April 1958) was an English-born Australian novelist and children’s literature writer.
The book tells the story of the seven Woolcot children, who live with their strict father, Captain Woolcot, and their young stepmother, Esther, in a large house called Misrule in Sydney in the 1880s. The children are Meg, Pip, Judy, Nell, Bunty, Baby and the General. They are lively, adventurous and often disobedient, causing trouble for their parents and themselves. Some of their escapades include running away from home, stealing a boat, setting fire to a mattress, breaking a window and getting into fights.
The main character is Judy, who is 13 years old and the most rebellious of the siblings. She has a strong sense of justice and a vivid imagination. She often clashes with her father, who does not understand her or appreciate her qualities. When Judy and Pip play a prank on their father at his military barracks, he decides to send Judy away to boarding school in the Blue Mountains as a punishment. Judy is heartbroken and feels rejected by her family.
At boarding school, Judy tries to fit in but finds it hard to adjust to the strict rules and routines. She makes friends with a girl named Badgery, who is also an outsider. She also meets a boy named Peter, who lives nearby and likes her. Judy enjoys exploring the mountains and the bush with Peter and Badgery. She also writes letters to her family and receives some from them.
One day, Judy receives a letter from Esther, telling her that the General is very ill and asking her to come home. Judy is overjoyed and decides to run away from school with Peter’s help. She takes a train to Sydney and then walks to Misrule. On the way, she meets Bunty, who has also run away from home after being blamed for breaking a window. They continue their journey together.
When they reach Misrule, they find that the General has died and the family is in mourning. Judy feels guilty for not being there for her brother and for causing more trouble for her parents. She also realises how much she loves her family and how much they love her. She reconciles with her father and Esther and promises to behave better.