Are We There Yet? by Alison Lester, Published 2004.
Are We There Yet by Alison Lester is an Australian classic. It follows a young family’s journey around Australia in a camper van and features many of Australia’s landmarks.
Just Quickly, What Is It?
8 year old Grace tells the story of when her parents took her and her brothers on a trip around Australia in a camper van. They visit many key landmarks in Australia, and add their own little family anecdotes from their trip. The story will resonate with many kids in Australia who may have travelled, or live close to any of these locations or landmarks.
Tell Me More, What’s It All About?
Grace and her two brothers spend 3 months in a camper trailer with their parents, exploring Australia, particularly many of the natural landscapes and landmarks in various states and territories. The book is based on the family’s real life family trip, with many real stories and accounts from their adventures.
They say goodbye to their nan and pop who are at home looking after their animals, and they set off!
We hear of their adventures through the Flinders Ranges, “where it felt like we were the only people in the world”, we heard about their visit to Rottnest Island where they could see the whiskers on the quokkas, they told of their favourite positions in the car, how they snorkelled at Turquoise Bay and how mum kept reminding them to wear “hats and sunscreen”.
As they left new places, Billy, Grace’s younger brother kept asking, “Are we there yet?”
They walked around Uluru and felt so small! Their boat floated so close to a crocodile in Kakadu and they looked at the hand carvings that were more than 20,000 years old!
They visited the Daintree rainforest and Cow Bay as well as the Gold Coast and down to Sydney for fireworks.
We heard of their first experience of snow in Mount Hotham and how they crossed Bass Strait in a big ferry. They explored Cradle Mountain and Hobart museum in Tasmania and Billy continued to ask, “Are we there yet?”
After stopping through St Kilda in Melbourne and seeing the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, they finally arrived back home!
The illustrations in the book tell half the story and that’s what makes this book so wonderful!
The characters are all experiencing the trip in their own way and that is communicated to us through the different comments that are made by Grace, her brothers and her parents.
The illustrations are not only pictures of the various locations but they include an insight into their trip, how the family are feeling and what they took away from each experience, with little diagrams and imaginative drawings too.
8 year old Grace who is telling the story, her 2 brothers Luke and Billy, and their parents, as well as nan and pop who are at home looking after their animals Buffy, Tigger and Bess.
So What Do I Love About It?
There is so much to love in this story:
- The richness of their holiday experience. This was not just a quick family trip to a beachside location. This was a 3-month adventure and the story contains so much information about all the culturally significant Australian landmarks and how their family experienced those places.
- The illustrations; they tell half the story, they’re engaging, varied and contain a lot of detail, with added diagrams, charts, imaginative drawings and their own recollections of what they saw.
- Each location was not just noted for what it is but rather how their family experienced it and things that stood out to them, or that they remembered.
- The language used is rich, descriptive and respectful, while having a childlike tone behind it.
- The book can be used as inspiration for and a resource for many lessons and program ideas, teaching children about Australian geography, culturally significant sites, about Aboriginal culture and history, about the diversity in Australian landscapes and so much more.
- The potential to inspire discussion and teachings, as well as to prompt adults and children to share their own experiences of travel in Australia.
- The book will not date. It can and most likely will be used for years and generations to come.
Weak Points For Me
There are not many weak points at all for me, other than the length of the book and the potential for younger children to lose focus if read all in one sitting. This is not necessarily a weak point, but rather an opportunity to mention that for younger children, it may be worth reading this over several sessions, or perhaps showing the pictures and not reading ALL the text all in one go.
Sometimes the language used seems quite childlike as intentioned from the perspective of an 8 year old, and at other times it can revert to rich, descriptive language which seems more mature in nature, but this certainly does not take away from the enjoyable experience of reading this beautiful piece of literature.
Quick Summary Review
Grace and her brothers had an adventure of a lifetime with their parents and experienced so much of what Australia has to offer in terms of nature, culture, weather and wildlife!
What a wonderful Australian classic that is a pleasure to read and that most children will likely get immersed in.
The story could be offered to younger children (3-5) keeping in mind they may not have the attention span for all of the text to be read in one go. There is certainly potential for discussion of pictures and Australian landmarks with the children.
For older children (6-8), they would probably manage to listen to the story all in one go and will enjoy the illustrations as well.
This can also be enjoyed by those in later primary years (9-12) as a resource for learning about Australian landmarks and wildlife as well as Aboriginal history and culture.
In short, this book could be offered to children anywhere from around 3-12.
You can find it on Booktopia HERE. – https://www.booktopia.com.au/are-we-there-yet–lester-alison/book/9780670880676.html