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The amazing story of Australia's first surgeon and the boy he adopted. Ages 12+ two brothers - one black, one white - and a colony at the end of the world It's 1789, and as the new colony in Sydney Cove is established, Surgeon John White defies convention and adopts Nanberry, an Aboriginal boy, to raise as his son. Nanberry is clever and uses his unique gifts as an interpr The amazing story of Australia's first surgeon and the boy he adopted. Ages 12+ two brothers - one black, one white - and a colony at the end of the world It's 1789, and as the new colony in Sydney Cove is established, Surgeon John White defies convention and adopts Nanberry, an Aboriginal boy, to raise as his son. Nanberry is clever and uses his unique gifts as an interpreter to bridge the two worlds he lives in. With his white brother, Andrew, he witnesses the struggles of the colonists to keep their precarious grip on a hostile wilderness. And yet he is haunted by the memories of the Cadigal warriors who will one day come to claim him as one of their own. This true story follows the brothers as they make their way in the world - one as a sailor, serving in the Royal Navy, the other a hero of the Battle of Waterloo. No less incredible is the enduring love between the gentleman surgeon and the convict girl who was saved from the death penalty and became a great lady in her own right. Praise for A WALTZ FOR MATILDA: 'this blockbuster of a novel with its gripping narrative ... will appeal to readers of all ages' COURIER MAIL 'A wonderful, entertaining tale which ... will work just as well for adults as for the teen market' SUNDAY HERALD SUN


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The amazing story of Australia's first surgeon and the boy he adopted. Ages 12+ two brothers - one black, one white - and a colony at the end of the world It's 1789, and as the new colony in Sydney Cove is established, Surgeon John White defies convention and adopts Nanberry, an Aboriginal boy, to raise as his son. Nanberry is clever and uses his unique gifts as an interpr The amazing story of Australia's first surgeon and the boy he adopted. Ages 12+ two brothers - one black, one white - and a colony at the end of the world It's 1789, and as the new colony in Sydney Cove is established, Surgeon John White defies convention and adopts Nanberry, an Aboriginal boy, to raise as his son. Nanberry is clever and uses his unique gifts as an interpreter to bridge the two worlds he lives in. With his white brother, Andrew, he witnesses the struggles of the colonists to keep their precarious grip on a hostile wilderness. And yet he is haunted by the memories of the Cadigal warriors who will one day come to claim him as one of their own. This true story follows the brothers as they make their way in the world - one as a sailor, serving in the Royal Navy, the other a hero of the Battle of Waterloo. No less incredible is the enduring love between the gentleman surgeon and the convict girl who was saved from the death penalty and became a great lady in her own right. Praise for A WALTZ FOR MATILDA: 'this blockbuster of a novel with its gripping narrative ... will appeal to readers of all ages' COURIER MAIL 'A wonderful, entertaining tale which ... will work just as well for adults as for the teen market' SUNDAY HERALD SUN

30 review for Nanberry: Black Brother White

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    The First Fleet had been settled in Sydney Cove for just over a year and Surgeon John White was despairing of a ship with supplies ever coming over the horizon. They were down to rationing – food, medicines, rum – the stocks were low. When trouble struck in 1789 it wasn’t to the colony though; the natives surrounding Sydney Cove were dying and it seemed it was an outbreak of smallpox. The settlers including Surgeon White went to the sites where the natives lay to see if there were any left alive The First Fleet had been settled in Sydney Cove for just over a year and Surgeon John White was despairing of a ship with supplies ever coming over the horizon. They were down to rationing – food, medicines, rum – the stocks were low. When trouble struck in 1789 it wasn’t to the colony though; the natives surrounding Sydney Cove were dying and it seemed it was an outbreak of smallpox. The settlers including Surgeon White went to the sites where the natives lay to see if there were any left alive – two young children plus an adult were brought back to their primitive hospital. Nanberry survived after suffering from the blisters and fever for some days but his grandfather passed. The young girl also lived… When Surgeon White went against everything and adopted the native boy Nanberry, he had no idea of the closeness and affection he would feel for this intelligent Aboriginal boy. Nanberry learned quickly and soon was interpreting for Governor Philip. He was torn between his new English ways and the memories of his clan, the Cadigal people. They had mostly been wiped out by the fever; but Nanberry was happy - his adopted father was kind and generous and taught Nanberry much. When Andrew was born, Nanberry delighted in teaching him all he knew. As the boys grew, Nanberry became a sailor, joining the boats first heading to Norfolk Island and then further afield. He relished the ocean, the waves and the majesty of the ships. Andrew left Australia and made his own way in the world, fighting and ultimately surviving the Battle of Waterloo. Nanberry: Black Brother White is a fictional account based heavily on the facts Aussie author Jackie French was able to unearth. The majority of the people who inhabit this book are real – the end of the book has facts on each character; Surgeon John White, Nanberry, Andrew White and his mother Rachel Turner and many more – which are profoundly interesting. With the little that was recorded in the eighteen hundreds making it hard for any writer and historian to garner facts, the obviously meticulous research of this book kept me enthralled. Written in a way to keep the reader interested, the story of Nanberry is an excellent one. I have no hesitation in highly recommending this book, and will be looking for more by this author.

  2. 5 out of 5

    C.G. Drews

    It's another beautifully written, gripping, hard to put down, historical novel by Jackie French. While it doesn't detail a racing plot, it follows the lives of three people -- Nanberry, Surgeon White and Rachel Turner -- and their unfair, hard, though sometimes happy lives. Each are prisoners in their own way, in their own worlds. Each looks desperately for an escape. But sometimes there is no escape. I loved the simple yet lithe writing prose and the brilliant way the author brings together a s It's another beautifully written, gripping, hard to put down, historical novel by Jackie French. While it doesn't detail a racing plot, it follows the lives of three people -- Nanberry, Surgeon White and Rachel Turner -- and their unfair, hard, though sometimes happy lives. Each are prisoners in their own way, in their own worlds. Each looks desperately for an escape. But sometimes there is no escape. I loved the simple yet lithe writing prose and the brilliant way the author brings together a story based on a scattering of historical facts. The book is so excellently written, you have to keep reading. There is a tug to finish the story and find out what happens. Now. A picture of Australia is painted in Nanberry, Black Brother White. It's a harsh picture, usually unfair and speckled with cruelty. It splashes colour and light over the unforgiving terrain of the bush, its people, so brutally removed from their land, and life how it was back in 1789. My only criticism is about the write-up on the book's back cover. The write-up relays that the book is a parallel between the worlds of two "brothers", one black, one white. In truth, Andrew (Surgeon White and Rachel Turner's son) isn't born until Nanberry is about 16 and a well-seasoned sailor. The book doesn't dwell much on the differences between their worlds. I felt it was more a story of several people trying to find their place in a black-and-white world. This is definitely another Jackie-French-Masterpiece.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Margot

    I had to read this book for school. At first I was quite bored with the random, non plot effecting events and scenes. But as the book went on I eventually became used to little dialogs or memoires that were regularly thrown in. The characters were good role models and had commendable ideals. Jackie French's vocabulary seemed somewhat limited or restrained but her writing was good enough to keep the book, at some points, interesting. The thing I hated was the ending (view spoiler)[ If you want to I had to read this book for school. At first I was quite bored with the random, non plot effecting events and scenes. But as the book went on I eventually became used to little dialogs or memoires that were regularly thrown in. The characters were good role models and had commendable ideals. Jackie French's vocabulary seemed somewhat limited or restrained but her writing was good enough to keep the book, at some points, interesting. The thing I hated was the ending (view spoiler)[ If you want to kill off the main character at least show the scene of them heroically dying. Why would an author just briefly say 'this is my brother's grave'??? And then suddenly 2 minutes later he is casually chatting with someone else as if nothing happened. I didn't even like Nanberry that much but I think he deserved a more heroic and acknowledged death. (hide spoiler)]

  4. 5 out of 5

    Christine Bongers

    A compelling read bringing to life historical characters from the time of white settlement of this country. Interesting choice for YR.It depicts the violence,squalor and appalling treatment of women in Sydney Cove, the decimation of indigenous clans due to small pox, the cruel mistreatment of convicts in the Second Fleet, and the endemic corruption of the marine corps. Yet despite the horrors contained within its pages, the book provides a fascinating insight into Aboriginal culture, and a sympa A compelling read bringing to life historical characters from the time of white settlement of this country. Interesting choice for YR.It depicts the violence,squalor and appalling treatment of women in Sydney Cove, the decimation of indigenous clans due to small pox, the cruel mistreatment of convicts in the Second Fleet, and the endemic corruption of the marine corps. Yet despite the horrors contained within its pages, the book provides a fascinating insight into Aboriginal culture, and a sympathetic portrayal of black and white historical personalities, most notably Nanberry, the brilliant young Aboriginal boy who grew up to live successfully in both cultures, Surgeon White, his English foster father, and Rachel Turner, the convict who overcame the deprivations of her early life to become one of the colony's wealthiest and most-loved figures. A fascinating read for 11-13 year olds.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa

    I was never a huge fan of this book but I decided to at least give it a try. I really wanted to like it as Australian and Aboriginal history is very fascinating but sadly I just couldn't get into the story. I haven't read any Jackie French stories before but I had heard she was a good author. Even though I didn't really like Nanberry I still think it was written well. The premise of this book sounded interesting and it was but I just felt it dragged along and nothing much seemed to happen. If en I was never a huge fan of this book but I decided to at least give it a try. I really wanted to like it as Australian and Aboriginal history is very fascinating but sadly I just couldn't get into the story. I haven't read any Jackie French stories before but I had heard she was a good author. Even though I didn't really like Nanberry I still think it was written well. The premise of this book sounded interesting and it was but I just felt it dragged along and nothing much seemed to happen. If enjoying this book a little more and didn't have many other books to read than I may have continued with it. But unfortunately I didn't and I am sad to say that I left this book about half way through. I still believe this could have been a good book and very enjoyable if it is something that interests you.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Emmeline

    This book just did not grab me. I love Jackie's writing style, and this book did not disappoint in that respect, but I must confess that for the majority of the read I was quite bored. The plot moved along too slowly for me, there wasn't even a real definable plot anyway. But this is just my opinion, and if other people love it all I can say is that I wish I do too. I had such high hopes for this book and was so excited to read it. Then when I did get to it, I found it sadly lacking. Sigh. This book just did not grab me. I love Jackie's writing style, and this book did not disappoint in that respect, but I must confess that for the majority of the read I was quite bored. The plot moved along too slowly for me, there wasn't even a real definable plot anyway. But this is just my opinion, and if other people love it all I can say is that I wish I do too. I had such high hopes for this book and was so excited to read it. Then when I did get to it, I found it sadly lacking. Sigh.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sheree

    4.5 stars This was both a compelling and challenging read. It's the relatively unknown story of the small aboriginal boy, Nanberry, adopted by surgeon John White, chief surgeon of the first fleet sent to establish a convict settlement at Botany Bay. Spanning the years 1788 to 1823, French employs meticulous research of actual historical figures; old letters, court transcripts and journal entries to provide a thoroughly absorbing backdrop to true events. Nanberry was one of only 3 survivors of the 4.5 stars This was both a compelling and challenging read. It's the relatively unknown story of the small aboriginal boy, Nanberry, adopted by surgeon John White, chief surgeon of the first fleet sent to establish a convict settlement at Botany Bay. Spanning the years 1788 to 1823, French employs meticulous research of actual historical figures; old letters, court transcripts and journal entries to provide a thoroughly absorbing backdrop to true events. Nanberry was one of only 3 survivors of the Cadigal tribe struck by the devastating smallpox outbreak which decimated the aboriginal population in the area. You can't help but love Nanberry, he's intelligent, protective, and inspiring, a lad caught between two cultures but determined to take his place in the white man's world while retaining his roots. Surgeon White is an interesting combination of conventional old ethics and compassionate forward thinking. Rachel Turner, the convict girl who survived the death penalty and near death on the second fleet, captures Surgeon White's heart but convention prevents him from marrying a convict and returning with her to England. This is their story, John White, Nanberry White (black brother), Andrew, (Nanberry's white brother) and Rachel, Andrew's mother. French captures the cruelty, famine, debauchery, horror, squalor, the corruption of the marine corp and most importantly the uniqueness of the Australian landscape and aboriginal culture with simple but evocative prose. It's terrible to plead relative ignorance of events in your own country so what I loved about NANBERRY was the inspiration I gained to read further. I found the extensive author's notes really enjoyable reading too. Nanberry should be compulsory reading in our school curriculum, suitable for readers age 10 and up but nonetheless one I can't recommend highly enough for young and old alike.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Maleficent Jones

    It would've been better had I not had to do this for school. It would've been better had I not had to do this for school.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Adele Broadbent

    I really liked this story. Spoilers below..... Nanberry is a young aboriginal boy living happily with his family. When the white ‘ghosts’ arrive to Nanberry’s land – so does the smallpox – killing his entire family. On the edge of death, he is saved by Surgeon White, the doctor in the white mans’ camp. During his recuperation, Surgeon White observes how quickly Nanberry learns the English language – and so he decides to train him as an interpreter between the natives and the English. Lonely in the I really liked this story. Spoilers below..... Nanberry is a young aboriginal boy living happily with his family. When the white ‘ghosts’ arrive to Nanberry’s land – so does the smallpox – killing his entire family. On the edge of death, he is saved by Surgeon White, the doctor in the white mans’ camp. During his recuperation, Surgeon White observes how quickly Nanberry learns the English language – and so he decides to train him as an interpreter between the natives and the English. Lonely in the camp, he also wants to raise him as a son. This is the story of how the great city of Sydney began – a ramshackle bundle of huts - full of convicts, and lazy officers and a handful of those who wanted to make the best of a new life in the hostile land. Throughout his life, Nanberry struggles with who he really is. Not accepted as English with his black skin – nor accepted by his own people with his new clothes and ‘ghost man’s’ words. But when his new white brother Andrew is born, Nanberry helps him be both English and a native to the land he was born in.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Grace Hammond

    This book I had to read for an English assignment, and I never once actually thought that I'd enjoy it as much as I did. It was not only written beautifully, but it reveals the hard truth about Australian history in a way that readers can relate to. It includes significant character development and embodies an essence of humanity. The main reason I loved this book so much was because it taught me the history of my country in a very different way than they do in schools. Jackie French tugs at you This book I had to read for an English assignment, and I never once actually thought that I'd enjoy it as much as I did. It was not only written beautifully, but it reveals the hard truth about Australian history in a way that readers can relate to. It includes significant character development and embodies an essence of humanity. The main reason I loved this book so much was because it taught me the history of my country in a very different way than they do in schools. Jackie French tugs at your heart strings in order to get you to empathise with the characters, and really understand what life was like for both the convicts who have been shipped away from their beloved home and the Aboriginals whose home was invaded. It had me laughing and crying and I really meant it when I recommended it in my English assignment.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Have read another fabulous Jackie French novel. This historical fiction called "Nanberry" is about a young aboriginal boy adopted by the First Fleet surgeon. Many themes such as racism, class divisions, cruelty, responsibility, friendship, and empathy are explored. As usual Jackie has thoroughly researched the topic and includes references to the real people on whom the story is based. She can really bring a story to life. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in early Australian his Have read another fabulous Jackie French novel. This historical fiction called "Nanberry" is about a young aboriginal boy adopted by the First Fleet surgeon. Many themes such as racism, class divisions, cruelty, responsibility, friendship, and empathy are explored. As usual Jackie has thoroughly researched the topic and includes references to the real people on whom the story is based. She can really bring a story to life. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in early Australian history.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mave

    I really enjoyed this book. I loved how the writer took us into both cultures. I can't help but feel shame for the way we treat one another, but there is also the wonder of how we can share together. I felt this was well communicated. I really enjoyed this book. I loved how the writer took us into both cultures. I can't help but feel shame for the way we treat one another, but there is also the wonder of how we can share together. I felt this was well communicated.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cruth

    Historical fiction based on real people during the settling of Sydney, 1788-1823. Doesn’t pull any punches. Not a “comfortable” read. But very, very good.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    A fascinating, complex work of historical fiction based upon true events. Beginning in 1789, and as the new colony in Sydney Cove is established, navy surgeon John White defies convention and adopts Nanberry, an Aboriginal boy, to raise as his son when the boy's fellow Cadigal's die in a smallpx epidemic. Nanberry uses his unique gifts as an interpreter to bridge the two worlds he lives in, but he is haunted by the memories of the Cadigal warriors who will one day come to claim him as one of the A fascinating, complex work of historical fiction based upon true events. Beginning in 1789, and as the new colony in Sydney Cove is established, navy surgeon John White defies convention and adopts Nanberry, an Aboriginal boy, to raise as his son when the boy's fellow Cadigal's die in a smallpx epidemic. Nanberry uses his unique gifts as an interpreter to bridge the two worlds he lives in, but he is haunted by the memories of the Cadigal warriors who will one day come to claim him as one of their own. With his white brother, Andrew, he witnesses the struggles of the colonists to keep their precarious grip on a hostile wilderness. The story follows the brothers as they make their way in the world - one as a sailor, serving in the Royal Navy, the other a hero of the Battle of Waterloo. Yet anothert storyline is the enduring love between the gentleman surgeon and the convict girl who is saved from the death penalty. A lengthy afterword provides historical context to the characters and plot.

  15. 5 out of 5

    AudreyTwo

    I found this a difficult book to rate. It is a young adult read, probably suitable for middle school students in years 6 to 8. Others have explained the general story and I will therefore not repeat it here. Whilst this tale is informative in terms of life in the early days of the first colony in Sydney, it could probably be half the length and it would work well as a novella. Some of the chapters add very little to the story and to retain the interest of early teen readers it really needs to mov I found this a difficult book to rate. It is a young adult read, probably suitable for middle school students in years 6 to 8. Others have explained the general story and I will therefore not repeat it here. Whilst this tale is informative in terms of life in the early days of the first colony in Sydney, it could probably be half the length and it would work well as a novella. Some of the chapters add very little to the story and to retain the interest of early teen readers it really needs to move along a little more quickly. Interestingly, the author notes at the end of the book were probably more informative than the chapters of the story itself. I should add that the blurb on the back of the book is somewhat misleading: The black and white brothers don’t actually meet until well into the tale and much of what is mentioned happens in the last few chapters!

  16. 5 out of 5

    George Newton

    I thought this book was good, if you are interested in the colonisation of Australia or the indigenous culture of Australia you would enjoy it. Learning about Nanberry and seeing his inner conflict develop between the idea of being English and his own culture and his growth in his decision was very enjoyable and sort of hard to read. The story starts with him as a child and you see him grow up into a man which was like growing up with him. However, I do have a few problems with the book's story t I thought this book was good, if you are interested in the colonisation of Australia or the indigenous culture of Australia you would enjoy it. Learning about Nanberry and seeing his inner conflict develop between the idea of being English and his own culture and his growth in his decision was very enjoyable and sort of hard to read. The story starts with him as a child and you see him grow up into a man which was like growing up with him. However, I do have a few problems with the book's story that did leave me unsatisfied by the ending. The book at times can feel quite slow and hard to follow because of the changing perspectives and the dates changing drastically between some of the chapters. Overall, the book is good and worth reading if you are interested in the subject matter.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alyssa

    Nanberry: Black Brother White is an incredible story if a boy and his family living in Sydney Cove in the 1780's when the First Fleet arrived. The boy then goes through a difficult time as his family dies from smallpox. Then, the surgeon Surgeon White found him dying from smallpox too but luckily survived and then became Surgeon White's son. After that, the book goes on how the convicts, surgeon white and Nanberry live in Australia. This book is an interest to me because of how it is written wit Nanberry: Black Brother White is an incredible story if a boy and his family living in Sydney Cove in the 1780's when the First Fleet arrived. The boy then goes through a difficult time as his family dies from smallpox. Then, the surgeon Surgeon White found him dying from smallpox too but luckily survived and then became Surgeon White's son. After that, the book goes on how the convicts, surgeon white and Nanberry live in Australia. This book is an interest to me because of how it is written with such detail and what the story is. I firstly heard from my primary school teacher as we were reading it in class and then I came back to it as it was such an interesting book to read.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Denise Newton

    https://denisenewtonwrites.com/?p=1046 Nanberry: Black Brother White is a terrific way for young people to see Australia’s history through story—the vibrant, tragic, astounding stories that make up the whole of this nation’s history since European colonisation. Nanberry: Black Brother White Jackie French https://denisenewtonwrites.com/?p=1046 Nanberry: Black Brother White is a terrific way for young people to see Australia’s history through story—the vibrant, tragic, astounding stories that make up the whole of this nation’s history since European colonisation. Nanberry: Black Brother White Jackie French

  19. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Fascinating! Jackie French has done a great job here in telling the stories of a number of real people from the first settlement in Australia. The intertwined and connected stories are well-written; I genuinely cared about the characters and their lives. I also really enjoyed the Author's Notes section at the back. French clearly put a lot of work in this novel and it certainly paid off. It's made me very interested in the First Fleet and the colony, as well as the aboriginal people. Fascinating! Jackie French has done a great job here in telling the stories of a number of real people from the first settlement in Australia. The intertwined and connected stories are well-written; I genuinely cared about the characters and their lives. I also really enjoyed the Author's Notes section at the back. French clearly put a lot of work in this novel and it certainly paid off. It's made me very interested in the First Fleet and the colony, as well as the aboriginal people.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paquita

    I was transported back to early colonisation of Sydney and lived with the Doctors family then the Moore family. I loved that the story is from both perspectives, the 'natives' and the convicts & those who came with them. And the characters are a depiction of real people too. Such a good story for students - I read while my year 7 was reading for school. I was transported back to early colonisation of Sydney and lived with the Doctors family then the Moore family. I loved that the story is from both perspectives, the 'natives' and the convicts & those who came with them. And the characters are a depiction of real people too. Such a good story for students - I read while my year 7 was reading for school.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jean Nicholson

    This was an easy read that gave a different perspective of the first years of Settlement in NSW covering many years. The tug between the boy being an aboriginal but reared as a white boy by the surgeon of the First Fleet and belonging to neither was made clear. T. good author noteshe story ends in 1823

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alannah

    We read this for a novel study at school and I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline. Jackie French’s writing has such depth and richness it feels like you are there. Such a good historical fact based book and the research preparing for this book is really in depth and Jackie French has really put her heart and soul into this book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    An interesting historical fiction novel based on real events and people. The novel focuses on Nanberry, an indigenous boy who is adopted by the colony’s doctor, and the unconventional family around him. Well written and descriptive.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chenoa

    A very wonderful story from an important time in Australian history that is often misrepresented. I love Jackie French's integrity and dedication to sharing these important stories and would recommend everyone read it, regardless of age. A very wonderful story from an important time in Australian history that is often misrepresented. I love Jackie French's integrity and dedication to sharing these important stories and would recommend everyone read it, regardless of age.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Angelique Marie

    Vivid and wonderful.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kyra

    It was quite a sad book, but its great for the history of Australia, as its all true.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

    Fantastic read. A great link between history and fiction.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Brown

    It was really interesting!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    Enjoyed this book for the 2nd time while reading it aloud to my eldest son.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Louisa Moore

    History I never knew about! So much to learn about this country with love included. I want more of this author. Such an enjoyable read

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