This last century has seen a multitude of changes in the world and a substantial change in lifestyle for many families around the globe. Our grandparents’ lifestyles and the philosophies felt in their upbringing can seem a distant and forgotten tale.
The Child is Wise is a collection of nine stories told from the viewpoint of adults on their lives and connections to the soil and soul of Australia. Some were born poor, some were born of prestige, but all were born innocent and wise in the ways of a child.
Josie Cabassi, born in Italy in 1923, tells the tale of a rural peasant life and the journey to Australia in 1937. It is a tale of hardship, endurance and, above all, family. Tally Hobs, on the other hand, was born to privilege in 1922 in Peppermint Grove. With the death of his mother and an absent father, he was left to the influence of his grandparents and eventually boarding schools. Dorothy Hewett, one of Australia’s famous poets and playrights, also born in 1923, gives the reader a glance at life in Western Australia for a child in the 1930s.
In stark contrast, we learn of the life of Alice Bilari Smith, an Australian Aboriginal born around 1923. It is a story of meshing lives with the “whitefella” and the contrast of cultures and lifestyles.
Vincent Serventy, born in Perth in 1925, tells a rich and attentive tale of his childhood devotion to the teachings of his father and his love of the land and all the philosophies it has to offer. Essy Ross, born into the Jewish area of London in 1926, brings alive the difficulty in making ends meet, fighting life threatening illnesses, celebrating traditions, and the life of the market.
Meg Aldridge, born in London in 1938, tells of the life of the working class in London in 1949 from the viewpoint of an eleven-year-old. With both parents working hard to make ends to meet, “Carol” (her fictive stand-in) finds it hard to ignore her intense desire for a fuzzy soda. Also born on 1938, in Glasgow rather than London, Natalie Andrews faces a life of upheaval and instability as the war forces her away from home and then tears her back again at its end. It is a heart-wrenching tale of violence and abuse; however, with the end of childhood comes the gift of happiness.
Jill Stubbs-Mills, born in Leederville in 1945, tells a vivid story of little girl with a large personality and a big desire to be noticed. With a propensity to find trouble and a spirit that cannot be broken, she forges through life in her hand-me-downs and survives the battles of will between mother and daughter.
The Child is Wise provides a glimpse of the many ways of life throughout the last century and the vast changes that have occurred. It also tells the story of what has not changed: the spirit of the child, their sense of adventure, and their struggle to be noticed and loved. The reader will be hard pressed not to find some antics, fears, or sense of adventure found within these stories still living within themselves.