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Children's book cover.

For Sam, 18 January 2003 begins like any other Saturday in the Canberra school holidays. He heads off to his friend Joffy’s house and they play computer games in Joffy’s room to escape the soaring temperatures. But before long they are distracted by the hooting noise on the radio and come out to listen. It appears that bushfires have reached the suburbs and nobody knows what to do.

When Joffy’s mum cannot contact Sam’s parents she insists he stays put, but Sam’s desire to get home increases with his panic and he sneaks out and runs towards his home.

Sam soon finds himself in the middle of burning houses and exploding trees. He can barely see through the smoke or move through the wind. He manages to glimpse at the place where his house used to be just as some neighbours drive past and force Sam to leave with them.

Sam is taken to the evacuation centre but cannot locate his family. He is driven back to Joffy’s house and is relieved to find his family are there looking for him. After an emotional reunion, Sam’s family start to rebuild their lives and Sam reflects on the loss of his pet rabbit and on being part of history.

Discussion questions

  • Why did Sam’s family decide not to move Sugar the horse after their morning phone call?
  • Why do you think Sam leaves Joffy’s house although he has been told not to? How do you think Joffy feels about this?
  • What mixed emotions does Sam experience when the people from up the street stop to pick him up? Do you think this is a realistic presentation of how someone in his situation might act? Why?
  • After Sam finds out that his rabbit Bugsy was not rescued he said he ‘knew I could never mention it again’. Why do you think Sam felt like this?
  • Why do you think that after the fires Sam found it hard to ‘get used to so much new’?
  • Why do you think Sam was able to talk to the woman at the museum about his experiences?
  • What does Sam mean by the statement ‘... we’re all history, all the time. We just don’t know it?’ Do you agree with Sam? Why?

Classroom activities

  1. Sam experiences many emotions throughout The Day I Was History. Use Rising panic worksheet (PDF 674kb) with your students to track and identify his emotional experiences.
  2. Ask your students to complete Over to you worksheet (PDF 2.1mb). In this activity students create a new cover illustration and blurb for The Day I Was History.
  3. Discuss the concept raised in the book that we are all a part of history. Ask students to identify a time in their life that they consider significant. This could be an event that was personally important or one that had national or global significance. Ask students to write a personal response about the day or time they were history.
  4. Ask students to research bushfire survival strategies. Students should create a pamphlet to educate others about what to do in the event of a bushfire.
  5. As a class, brainstorm a variety of poetry styles, for example, acrostic, shape, haiku. Ask students to choose one and write a bushfire poem.

Book details

The Day I Was History by Jackie French
illustrated by Christina Booth

ISBN 978 1876944 55 1
198mm x 130mm, 64pp
black and white illustrations
RRP $11.95

Published 2007. This book is out of print.


Collection record – burnt fire truck wheel

Find out more about Jackie French

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