"If you imagine you are going to read of model children, with perhaps a naughtily inclined one to point a moral, you had better lay down this book immediately... Not one of the seven is really good, for the very excellent reason that Australian children never are."
In spite of my newfound love for Australia (See: Bill Bryson's Down Under, Kayleigh's general awesomeness, including sending me this book!) my only real exposure to things that have come out of Australia has been Neighbours (sort of terrible, sort of awesome Aussie soap), Heath Ledger, and Australian Masterchef (much better than the UK version, just fyi). Because of this lack of things from Australia, I may have, at some points in my life, referred to Australia as a cultural wasteland (*ducks whatever Kayleigh is throwing right now* Don't worry, Kayleigh! I've also referred to the 80s and LA as cultural wastelands *hides from Megs*) and now I just feel mean about that.
So! Seven Little Australians! It's a book set in Australia and about Australian children and written by an almost Australian woman (Turner moved to Australia when she was 9, so basically Australian. But she was born in Yorkshire, so she's OURS) and I can just feeeeeel the Australian culture already. Not that this book exists to just go 'we are in Australia and look at all these Australian things we're doing and oh look! A kangaroo!' because that would be shit. Instead, it's the story of a family (guess how many children are in it) and their highs and lows and adventures and general hijinks, and in short, it's just a really good children's book.
Of the seven children, the two who really get the most screentime (screentime? Um... Pagetime?) are Judy (13) and Meg (16) presumably mainly because they're girls and Ethel obviously knows what it's like being a teenage girl better than a teenage boy, and also because, who doesn't want a children's book with female protagonists? I know that I do! Anyway, Judy is basically the best character- you know she's going to be trouble when she's described as having quicksilver instead of blood in her veins, and she truly proves to be a big problem to her exasperated father mainly because she refuses to do as she's told and act as a good young lady should which, you know, HIGH FIVE for Judy.
Meg is a much more traditional female character, but then also, she isn't. She has this terrible friend who has older sisters who have boyfriends and so this friend tries to convince her that they need boyfriends, and it's all just very 'Meg goes to Vanity Fair' in Little Women (why yes, they are both called Meg. I don't know if that's just a coincidence or what). BUT THEN it becomes all untraditional when Meg passes out because she's been lacing her corset too tightly to attract boys to her tiny waist, and it's all a bit 'well, that was really silly, maybe girls shouldn't do medically unwise things just to attract boys' which is an AWESOME message, obviously.
And there are all the other kids which have quite cruelly blurred into 'all the other kids' except I know there's a fat boy child who's really bad at lying (which is quite sweet, really) and another boy child who's kind of perfect and doesn't do too much wrong unless Judy is also there. NAUGHTY JUDY (I love you). And so basically Meg and Judy and the other nameless children all constantly egg each other on and drive their dad (think: Captain Von Trapp, with a new younger wife and everything) to distraction and just generally have a lot of fun.
And I had a lot of fun reading it. I really did. Things did take a bit of an unexpected turn at the end, but we shall ignore that (I am choosing to ignore it forever, actually) and just appreciate Seven Little Australians for its fun and cuteness and for finally making me read a book about Australia by an (almost) Australian, something which I can't remember happening for a long time, if ever. I think it's worth noting that, had I read this as a child, I probably would have been in love with it, but even reading it now, I just like it plenty. Which is good enough for me!