The University Library at the University of Melbourne holds a rich selection of adventure books, from early examples such as Gulliver's travels and Robinson Crusoe, to stories set across Britain's far-flung empire.

Noel Shaw Gallery, Baillieu Library, from 16 July 2015 - 21 February 2016

Mapping the rise of the genre, the exhibition Reading adventures will showcase a broad range of adventure narratives from the University Library's McLaren, Morgan and Public School Fiction collections. The exhibition will examine the growing popularity of adventure fiction during the nineteenth century, as printed books became more readily available and literacy rates rose. Featuring a range of lavish covers and attractive engravings, Reading adventures will address how adventure stories developed in response to a changing body of readers.

Read curator Dr Grace Moore's blog post

One of my projects at the moment is an exhibition, Reading Adventures, which will open in the Noel Shaw Gallery (the Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne) in July. The library holds around ten thousand rare books for children and adolescents, and the exhibition will offer a taster of its many adventure stories, drawing on the McLaren, Morgan, and Public School collections... [more]

Public lecture program

Join us for some fascinating talks in the Leigh Scott Room on the first floor of the Baillieu Library during the exhibition Reading adventures. 16 July 2015

Curator’s talk of the exhibition Reading adventures

Dr Grace Moore

In this curator’s talk, Dr Grace Moore will present a floor talk that engages directly with the adventure narratives showcased in the exhibition Reading adventures. From tales of real-life heroism to the imagined exploits of orphans at large, the talk will focus on texts that chart the rise of our appetite for adventure from Gulliver’s Travels and Robinson Crusoe to stories set across Britain’s far-flung empire.

Boys and girls explore then world: Nineteenth century boys’ books of adventure, exploration and history

22 July 2015
Merete Smith

In this talk, Merete Smith will explore how the mid- to late nineteenth century in England saw a new genre of fiction emerge with boy protagonists exploring distant lands or taking part in historical events around the Empire, allowing easy identification for young boy readers. These stories (also read and enjoyed by girls) taught history and geography lessons in a much more interactive way than was possible through earlier fiction.

Brave daughters of the Empire: British and Australian girls' fiction, 1900-1930

5 August 2015
Dr Michelle Smith, Deakin University

Historically, most British girls’ fiction was about home and family. In the early twentieth century, however, writers for girls began to mimic popular boys’ genres, including adventure stories and Robinsonades. The far reaches of the British Empire became ideal locations in which to set stories of unconventional and heroic girls without compromising the feminine ideals expected of British girl readers.  In the nascent children’s literature of Australia, colonial girl protagonists were not depicted as quite as wild, yet they were capable of riding a horse astride or extinguishing a bushfire when required.

“A Land so Wide and Savage”: Polyvocal picture books about exploration and colonial history

19 August 2015
Lian Beveridge, independent scholar

How can picture books represent exploration and colonial history to young readers in a way which does not erase the complexity and violence of colonialism, but is still age-appropriate and interesting? In this talk Lian Beveridge discusses an Australian and a Canadian picture book which largely manage to meet this challenge.

’getting lost in the bush’

2 September 2015
Dr Grace Moore, University of Melbourne

This talk by the exhibition curator will consider the excitement and terror experienced by the lost child protagonist.  While the ‘lost children’ narrative is an old one that plays out in many European fairy tales, its emphasis shifted when it was adapted by settler Australians.  Examining Ethel Pedley’s Dot and the Kangaroo and some of Jessie Whitfield’s stories for children, Grace Moore will consider some of the particular perils and adventures associated with being lost in the Australian bush, along with the degree to which these stories reflected settler anxieties.

Graeme Base, children’s author

21 October 2015
Graeme Base is a renowned author and artist of picture books.

He is perhaps best known for his second book, Animalia published in 1986, and third book The Eleventh Hour which was released in 1989. Graeme will speak about his work and career as an author. His talk will be followed by a book signing opportunity.

‘Doing her bit’: Girls’ wartime adventures

November 2015
Dr Kristine Moruzi, Deakin University

Girls’ fiction published in England, the United States, Canada and Australia during and immediately after World War I reflects a patriotic fervour that extols imperialist greatness and international allegiances alongside a strong national pride, where girls are encouraged to understand and to accept their responsibilities to family, community, and nation in their support of the war effort. Yet girls are occasionally depicted having adventures of their own, whether they model the courage and patience required to keep the home fires burning or the bravery associated with active participation on the Front.

Is The Magic Pudding’ Australia’s Don Quixote?

25 November 2015
Robert Holden

While The Magic Pudding is traditionally evaluated within children’s literature for its fantasy and nonsensical elements, its inclusion in this exhibition celebrating the adventure book tradition has inspired this different interpretation. Most particularly, the book’s robust larrikin adventures in the Australian bush seem to set it convincingly within another genre as an overlooked yet valid example. Indeed, Lindsay himself explicitly stated: “Sentimental tenderness and prettiness are strictly repudiated …” Robert Holden will especially draw parallels between the adventures of the puddin’ and company with those of Don Quixote: both works being picaresque narratives of rambunctious appeal.

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