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#BookReview: Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters, Boundless and Born to Fly, Catherine Bauer (author), Big Sky Publishing, September 2021.
Len Waters may have been born behind the gates of an Aboriginal reserve, but his big imagination and even bigger dreams took him soaring well beyond the reach of those who tried to confine him. Kamilaroi man Len Waters dreamed of taking to the skies. It was an unlikely dream at the time, but during WWII he beat the odds to become Australia’s first known Aboriginal fighter pilot.
Len had a basic education and life was lacking in luxury. But Len had a sharp mind, a boundless work ethic, big dreams and a supportive family.
Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters – Boundless and Born to Fly takes readers on Len Waters’ soaring journey from making his home-made model aeroplanes at his kitchen table, to flying RAAF fighter jets in the south west Pacific in World War II.
Len was a history maker, but when WWII was over, he discovered that his service and courage did not result in equality. Len once said that, out of his RAAF uniform, he simply ‘returned to being a black fellow’.
Decades later, Len’s determination and achievements are recognised and honoured across Australia.
*Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that the following story contains images and names of people who have died.
Following the success of the first two Australia Remembers titles; Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials, and Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force, written by Allison Paterson, the Big Sky Publishing team have taken the next book to the skies with the third informational, graphic text; Len Waters, Boundless and Born to Fly by Catherine Bauer. This is a fascinating account of the aeronautical journey of Kamilaroi man, Len Waters, and his career as a WWII Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fighter pilot. Packed to the helm with rich stories, strong roots in Indigenous customs and traditions, and actively engaging historical facts and questions, Australia Remembers 3 will have its audience’s minds soaring and spinning with a multitude of informative bombshells.
What’s beautifully significant in amongst the narratives about Len Waters and the deep thinking questioning, fact boxes, images and diagrams is the link to family and community spirit. With an upbringing in tiny towns and Aboriginal Missions around northern New South Wales, Len’s family lived a simple life, separated from the non-Indigenous population and controlled by Governments. Despite this inequality, the hardships of European settlement and breakdowns of traditions, Len kept his faith, beliefs and imagination in the pride, knowledge and values of his Elders, and ultimately, his ambition and drive to play his important role in the military force.
In fourteen easily manageable chapters, this resource neatly collaborates its narrative timeline of Len Waters’ life with fascinating snippets about World War 2, and interactive questions for inferential and evaluative thinking – in the most visually- and textually-captivating way. Before completing with its comprehensive activities, glossary, bibliography and index sections, Boundless and Born to Fly leaves readers with the inspiring message of Len’s fighting spirit; his famous quote to remind his children, and others, to not let obstacles stand in the way of dreams:
“The sky’s the limit. And dreams can come true. You just have to believe in yourself, be honest, have pride, have dignity, integrity and be accountable. And it’ll all pay off.”
Len Waters, Boundless and Born to Fly, and the entire Australia Remembers series, is a highly recommended resource for primary school classrooms for its ability to capture its audience in its sweeping nonfiction historical narrative heightened with the inspiring spirit of our Nation’s heroes, like Len, that we can all look up to.
Review by Romi Sharp.
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