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WINNER 2016 CHILDREN'S BOOK COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA EVE POWNALL AWARD FOR INFORMATION BOOKS
This is the inspiring true story of nine-year-old Lennie Gwyther who, at the height of the Great Depression in 1932, rode his pony from his home town of Leongatha in rural Victoria to Sydney to witness the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Lennie's 1,000-kilometre solo journey captured the imagination of the nation, and his determination and courage provided hope to many at a difficult time in Australia's history.
Lennie the Legend begins with a terrible accident on the family farm, when Lennie, remarkably at such a young age, takes on the responsibility for the ploughing. Lennie is obsessed with the marvel of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and, as a reward for saving the farm from missing the planting season, his parents grant him his wish to ride on his own to Sydney for the opening of the bridge. Lennie has all sorts of adventures along the way-a thief lurking in the bush in the dead of night, a raging bushfire, surprise appearances, celebrations in his honour, being the star of a newsreel, and meeting the Prime Minister.
At the end of each chapter, a double-page spread provides information on topics relating to the chapter, such as 'The Great War' (the personal effects of war; Captain Leo Tennyson Gwyther); 'Living on the Land' (farming life; growing up on a farm); 'The Great Depression' (economic turmoil; surviving the depression); 'Australia's Capital City' (building Canberra; Parliament House); 'City Living' (Australian cities in the 1930s; Melbourne-Sydney rivalry); 'The Sydney Harbour Bridge' (constructing the bridge; opening the bridge).
The story and the information spreads have black-and-white and colour illustrations, including photographs of Lennie at the time. Also provided at the end of the book is a glossary, background reading and an index.
Lennie Gwyther has a dream to ride his pony from his small home town of Leongatha to Sydney. He wants to be there for the opening of an architectural miracle-the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This fictionalised true story follows nine-year-old Lennie as he makes the journey with his pony Ginger Mick, and is used as a way to explore important moments in Australia's history. The Sydney Harbour Bridge represents hope to Lennie and to millions of other Australians still suffering the effects of World War I and the Great Depression. Interspersed between each chapter is information and photos covering key points of historical significance. Lennie the Legend is well written, and it's easy to get caught up in Lennie's journey-he is a likeable character, too preoccupied with his dream to get caught up in his potential fame. However, many of the climactic moments in the story are fleeting. While there are limitations with length given the book's intended primary-school audience, the difficulties Lennie faces on the way to Sydney could have been expanded to really demonstrate his courage and determination. This book is ideal for the classroom and offers an easy introduction to Australian history for young readers.
In 1932, nine-year-old Lennie Gwyther dreamed of being on the spot for the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Thefact that he lived 1000 kilometres away in Leongatha, in south-eastern Victoria, didn't faze him. A new book tells the true story of how one February day, with his parents' blessing, he set off on what was to be a four-month odyssey with his pony, Ginger Mick.
The book Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney By Pony, to be published by the National Library of Australia on February 1, tells how Lennie was feted at towns he and Ginger Mick stopped at such as Lakes Entrance, Cooma, and Bowral.
‘‘It was the middle of the Depression, people were looking for good news stories, so it captured the public imagination,'' author Stephanie Owen Reeder said.
Lennie and Ginger Mick followed bush tracks and barely formed dirt roads east to Cann River then north to Canberra. Horse and boy survived a deranged tramp jumping out at them a few days into their ride, a bushfire near Traralgon, heavy rain and fogs. In the fledgling town of Canberra, where sheep grazed in front of (now Old) Parliament House, Lennie shook prime minister Joseph Lyons' hand, and took tea in the members' refreshment rooms.
Arriving In Sydney's Martin Place, Lennie and Ginger Mick were mobbed by the public and the press. Lennie met the lord mayor at Sydney Town Hall, visited Circular Quay and Bondi Beach and rode an elephant at Taronga Zoo.
And on March 19, Lennie and Ginger Mick took part in the Sydney Harbour Bridge opening pageant, crossing the bridge among indigenous groups, war veterans, schoolchildren and bridge workers and saluting the governor general and the NSW premier.
On March 21, at a match at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Lennie met his idol, Donald Bradman, who gave him a signed cricket bat.
Lennie convinced his father that he should ride Ginger Mick home. Back in Leongatha on June 10, a huge crowd turned out in the main street. More than 800 people attended a civic reception.
Reeder says Lennie being allowed to ride to Sydney amazed her, given ‘‘these days a nine-year old child is probably not even allowed to walk to the shops by themselves''.
The ride came about when Lennie's father, Leo Tennyson Gwyther, a decorated World War I hero with chronic war injuries, broke his leg on the Gwyther farm in South Leongatha.
While he was in hospital, Lennie completed the ploughing and saved the crops. A thankful Leo asked How he could reward Lennie, and all he wanted was to see the majestic bridge in Sydney he had read about. Lennie mapped the route himself.
This week, South Gippsland shire councillor Bob Newton called for a statue of Lennie and Ginger Mick to be erected in Leongatha, and for more children to be told the story.
‘‘It is one of the great stories of Leongatha, but probably never recognised too much. It was an amazing achievement for someone to ride all that way. Unbelievable.''
Ginger Mick lived to the age of 27 on the Gwyther farm. Lennie went on to marry, have a daughter and settle in the Melbourne suburb of Hampton.
He worked as an experimental engineer at General Motors 'Holden plant at Fishermans Bend, and Also was a keen fisherman, astronomer, ice skater, and sailor.
At the time of his death, aged 70 in 1992, he was building a yacht, which he planned to sail to Tasmania and New Zealand.
Lennie's daughter, Mary Gwyther, said a statue would be a good way to honour his ‘‘wonderful achievement'' in the 1932 ride.
Granddaughter Sally Gwyther said young people would be inspired by the book.
Sally,who was 17 when Lennie died, remembers him ‘‘always being very creative''. ‘‘He had a lathe in the shed and he was always turning wood or making tools or tables. There wasn't really anything he couldn't do."
(Age: 9+) Recommended. Lennie the legend is based on the story of Lennie Gwyther, who rode his pony Ginger Mick from the family farm in Victoria to Sydney to attend the opening ceremony of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932. His journey was reported in the newspapers of the day, and like the bridge he went to see, helped to lift the spirits of Australians during the Great Depression.
Stephanie Owen Reeder has developed an effective strategy for focusing on a personal journey while immersing readers in the daily life of a bygone era. Lennie's story, told in strong, well-paced prose and convincing dialogue, relates how he coped with bushfire and flood, was helped by relatives and strangers alike, and encountered characters as diverse as swagmen and the Prime Minister. Each stage of the journey ends with an explanation of one aspect of social conditions at the time - farming life, the consequences of the Great War, mass unemployment and the optimism engendered by nation-building projects such as the construction of Canberra and the bridge. An epilogue traces the course of Lennie's life until his death in 1992. These passages facilitate an understanding of the significance of Lennie's achievement while allowing the narrative itself to flow uninterrupted by intrusive explanations of its historical context. The text has been complemented with photographs, maps and posters, which the designers have presented in the style of an old-fashioned photograph album. A bibliography, glossary, picture credits, index and author's notes are evidence of thorough research. The inclusion of some invented names, dialogue and events is explained as being due both to necessity, when information is unavailable, and to a desire to heighten the impact of the story.
Part history and part historical fiction, Lenny the legend brings to life an inspirational episode from Australia's past and provides an insight into the values and resilience of a generation that survived against the odds.
One of the most amazing stories connected to the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 is that of Lennie Gwyther. Lennie was just nine years old when the bridge opened, so it had been under construction his entire life. Determined to attend the opening he decided to ride his pony Ginger Mick
(named after a character created by poet C.J. Dennis) from his family farm in Leongatha in Gippsland, Victoria, all the way to Sydney. Lennie would have been happy just to be in the crowd watching the opening ceremony but, as the newspapers got wind of his epic ride, he was something of celebrity by the time he arrived in Sydney and so was given a place in the official opening parade. It is hard to imagine a child being allowed to attempt a journey like that today, but Lennie's ride made him a hero in his day. This delightful book retelling the story for younger readers renders his adventure as a picture book, with explanations of various aspects of Lennie's life and times.
Riveting and well-researched, Lennie the Legend: Solo to Sydney is the fictionalized version of a true story for the 7+ age group. It is a great adventure; a story of courage, resilience and dreams come true. It presents a view of the unbreakable bond between Man and horse, and the challenging times brought on by the Great Depression. The story alternates with factual pages of authentic history, stunning original coloured and black and white photos from the NLA's rich collection, plus maps and posters. These all tie in together beautifully to form a whole.
Nine year-old Lennie wants to go to the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It's a hard ask as he's a bush boy who lives in Leongatha in Victoria. His father, Captain Gwyther, a decorated war hero has broken his leg and Lennie must step up and fill his place, and finish the ploughing of their farm acres.
As a reward for his commitment to the family, his father gives permission for him to ride his horse Ginger Mick, to Sydney for the opening of the Bridge.
Lennie's story is inspiring. We travel with him from town to town, through the bush and bushfires, past swagmen looking for work, through a flooding Princes Highway and onwards against odds. Then there are other dangers - snakes, horse thieves and various unseen threats. Every scene gives a strong sense of place. The visual descriptions of the natural world and Lennie's surroundings put us right into every event.
Carrying letters of introduction and depending on the kindness of strangers, Lennie and the gallant Ginger Mick are on the greatest adventure of their life.
He meets the Prime Minister, visits Parliament House and Canberra Grammar School. Everywhere he goes, people know him because the newspapers have been following his inspiring journey.
The book has included an excellent Glossary, Acknowledgements to the primary and secondary sources, and the usual outstanding detailed list of illustrations with references for further research.
This is one of the best NLA books I have read although each one has been of the highest standard in every area. Stephanie Owen Reeder's excellent narrative skills and insightful prose breathed life into this amazing story.
This is an incredible story. In 1932 a young nine-year old boy, Lennie Gwyther, rode his much-loved pony from the rural town of Leongatha, east of Melbourne all the way to Sydney. He made the trip of 1,000 kilometres on his own. Such a trip seems inconceivable to us today. Lennie really wanted to see the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and his father, a returned World War 1 soldier, thought Lennie could manage the trip. His father arranged a number of letters of introduction to people along the way and also drove to Canberra to check that Lennie was OK. However most of the time Lennie was on his own, camping in the bush with his pony or approaching farm houses for shelter and food. It involved a lot of resilience and courage and was at times dangerous like the time he was perilously close to a serious bushfire. The text is part fiction in order to dramatise the story but is based on fact from Reeder's detailed research of diaries, newspapers and historical records from the time. Many photos of the period and additional information about the 1930s help give us a vivid picture of the time of the Great Depression and the effects of World War 1 on the returned soldiers. The book describes the many men who took to the roads in search of work as well as describing the generosity of people in the country who welcomed Lennie into their homes and sent him on his way well fed and provisioned. The new city of Canberra and the opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge are also described. There is a detailed map of Lennie's trip, a glossary, an Index and Author's notes describing the extent to which Stephanie Owen Reeder has used fiction to tell this true story. Australian (8 - 13 years)