Tea and Sugar Christmas
National Library of Australia, 2015
5-8yrs, Lower Primary, Primary, Upper Primary
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- Children, Aboriginal Australian
- Christmas stories
- Cultural diversity
- Literary devices
- Social life and customs
- The Nullabor (Far West SA SH52-16)
- Visual literacy
Jane Jolly is an experienced primary school teacher who knows topics, which will fascinate children. Trains is one of these. The Tea and Sugar train is a fascinating piece of Australian history. For 81 years, from 1915 to 1996, the Tea and Sugar Train travelled by rail from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie once a week, serving the settlements along the Nullarbor Plain. Without shops or services for people living in these settlements, the train became their lifeline, bringing everything they needed. This included food, banking and medical facilities and even a theatrette for showing films. For children, the most exciting moment was the first Thursday of December every year, when Father Christmas appeared on the train, greeting the children and offering each a present.
Jane Jolly’s expert read aloud text effectively snares young readers with its sense of excitement. Young Kathleen, through whose eyes we experience the train’s arrival, sees Father Christmas with his ‘white beard blinding’ and his ‘clothes so Christmas red’.
The story is based on historical fact. The rich language captures daily lives and brings time and place alive for young readers. As the train arrives, people ‘emerged from their tin castles, cheering and calling out across the shimmering landscape’. The rich word imagery perfectly complements Robert Ingpen’s striking artwork. There are seven fold out artworks, which capture the intricate details of the landscape, houses and people’s daily activities.
Ingpen’s illustrations alternate between soft pencil sketches and stunning, softly coloured realistic art. These capture train interiors, the environment, houses, people and their daily lives. Young viewers and readers will easily feel part of these lives presented with such realistic clarity. Complementing this piece of historical fiction is the National Library’s usual offering of extra factual details at the story’s end. These include historical photographs of the trains and their interiors, advertised products, the isolated settings and daily activities.
‘Tea and Sugar Christmas’ was an Honour Book in the CBCA Eve Pownall Awards in 2015 and in that same year it won the Museums Australia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards for publications produced in cultural institutions.
- Teachers’ Notes – Pegi Williams Book Shop available as a pdf https://www.pegiwilliams.com.au/pdfs/teachernotes/9780642278630.pdf
- Review: Tea and Sugar Christmas by Tania McCartney, 16 December 2014 http://www.kids-bookreview.com/2014/12/review-tea-and-sugar-christmas.html
- Wonderlands: the Illustration art of Robert Ingpen. Review 30 November 2016 http://readingtime.com.au/wonderlands-illustration-art-robert-ingpen/
- CBCA Lifetime Achievement Award – Acceptance Speech by Robert Ingpen AM, 1 September 2016 http://readingtime.com.au/cbca-lifetime-achievement-award-acceptance-speech-robert-ingpen/
- Tea and Sugar Train by Ashley Walsh, 28 June 2009 http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2009/06/27/2607030.htm