Anthony R. Hill (1942-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
(Anthony Robert Hill)
Born 1942, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Education: Attended Melbourne University, 1960–63. Politics: "Swinging voter." Religion: Protestant. Hobbies and other interests: Music, Scottish dancing, antique collecting, golf.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Penguin Books, P.O. Box 257, Ringwood, Victoria 3134, Australia.
Journalist and writer. Melbourne Herald, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, journalist, 1960–75; Australian Financial Review, Canberra, Australia, journalist, 1976–77; self-employed antique dealer in New South Wales, Australia, 1977–82; freelance journalist and writer for television, c. 1980s; speech writer for Australian Governor-Generals Bill Hayden and Sir William Deane, beginning 1989; author, beginning 1982.
Australian Society of Authors, Australian Journalists Association, Australiana Society, Royal Scottish Country Dancing Society.
Children's Christian Book of the Year award, Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) honor, Australian Multicultural Children's Book of the Year Award, and Human Rights Award shortlist, all 1995, all for The Burnt Stick; New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards Ethel Turner Prize, and CBC Eve Pownall Award shortlist, both 2002, and Reading, Enjoying Australian Literature—Older Readers shortlist, and KOALA shortlist, both 2003, all for Soldier Boy; New South Wales Premier's History Prize shortlist, 2003, and Western Australia Young Readers Book Award honor, 2004, both for Young Digger; South Australia Kanga Awards honor, 2004, for The Shadow Dog.
Birdsong, illustrated by Kay Watts, Oxford (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1988.
The Burnt Stick, illustrated by Mark Sofilas, Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1994, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995.
Spindrift, illustrated by Mark Sofilas, Puffin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1996.
The Grandfather Clock, Lothian Books (Australia), 1996.
Growing up and Other Stories, Ginninderra Press (Charnwood, Australian Capital Territory, Australia), 1999.
Soldier Boy: The True Story of Jim Martin, the Youngest ANZAC, Penguin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 2001.
Forbidden, illustrated by Mark Sofilas, Penguin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia) 2001.
Young Digger, Penguin (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 2002.
The Shadow Dog, illustrated by Andrew McLean, Viking (Haymarket, New South Wales, Australia), 2003.
Animal Heroes, Penguin (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia), 2005.
The Bunburyists, illustrated by Peggy Earl, Penguin (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1985.
Antique Furniture in Australia: Finding, Identifying, Restoring, and Enjoying It, Viking (Ringwood, Victoria, Australia), 1985, 3rd edition published as Antique Furniture in Australia: The Illustrated Guide for Owners and Buyers, 1997.
A former journalist and government speechwriter, Australian author Anthony R. Hill has written children's books and short stories, and also penned several highly praised novels that focus on his nation's history. As Hill once explained to SATA, in his early books he was guided by "a wish to explore and expand the imaginative powers of young readers." His first children's book, Birdsong, deals with a young boy whose love of nature and growing understanding of the world around him are reflected in fanciful conversations with a pet cockatoo, while Spindrift involves the death of a beloved grandparent. The Grandfather Clock, a fantasy novel, focuses on a girl who, as Hill noted, "has to undertake a dream journey through Time. The fact that she overcomes the obstacles in her way is entirely due to her courage, her wit, and—above all—to her imagination." More recent books include the award-winning The Burnt Stick as well as the historical works Soldier Boy: The True Story of Jim Martin, the Youngest ANZAC and Young Digger, which focus on little-known aspects of Australia's involvement in World War I. "I am concerned to portray the cruelties, the complexities, and the comedies of life in a realistic and unflinching manner," Hill added.
The Burnt Stick tells of John Jagamarra, a boy whose experiences represent what happened to Australia's "stolen children," those children of mixed parentage born in pre-1960s Australia. Because his father is white, John is taken from his Aboriginal mother by government welfare office officials and put in a white mission school so that he can learn English. The novel gets his title because John's mother, desperate to keep her son, tries to concealing John's light skin with charcoal from a burnt stick. Although John is well-treated, the forced move robs him of some freedoms, as well as his Aboriginal heritage and traditions, not to mention the love of his mother. John's loss resonates when he returns, years later, with his son to the aboriginal camp where he was born.
Hill's "simple story will serve as a poignant reminder of the insensitivity with which white colonists have often dealt with native cultures," declared Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan in a School Library Journal review, while Horn Book reviewer Maeve Visser Knoth called The Burnt Stick "an exceptional and very emotional novel" that offers readers a powerful reminder "of the evil that can be done anywhere when governments make decisions about race and family." In a Magpies review of the same work, contributor Kevin Steinberger called Hill's effort "one of the outstanding children's books of recent times."
The biographical novel Soldier Boy and its sequel, Young Digger, focus on World War I. They are more than stories of warfare, however; as Maureen Nimon noted in Orana Online, "war is the challenge but the story is how the lives of ordinary Australians and others were shaped by it." In Soldier Boy Hill tells the story of Jim Martin, the youngest soldier to lose his life in World War II. Enlisting in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) at age fourteen, Martin died only six months later, a casualty of the typhoid that lay siege to the men in the trenches At Gallipoli. Young Digger focuses on another teen involved in World War I, this time the boy—French orphan Henri Heememe—is adopted as a mascot by the Number Four squadron of the Australian Flying Corps stationed in Germany. Surviving the war, Henri is adopted by an Australian soldier and smuggled to Australia in a sack, where he must adapt to a new culture. Praising the research undertaken by Hill in each of these volumes, Australian Book Review contributor Margaret Robson Kett noted that the author's prose is "painstakingly detailed," with endnotes, author's notes, and other citations clearly setting forth where fact diverts from fictional deduction. In Young Digger, Kett continued, Hill gives "the story added depth by constructing conversations and scenes from the historical record," providing readers with an "insider's view of the immediate aftermath of the Great War."
In addition to his award-winning children's books Hill is known in his native Australia as the author of Antique Furniture in Australia, an antique-hunter's guide based on Hill's expertise as a former antiques dealer that by 1997 was in its third edition. Hill once explained to SATA that his goal as a children's book author "is to illuminate the inner lives of my characters; to try to elicit understanding in my readers; to use my art in such a way that they are able to contemplate these matters without themselves being damaged; and, of course, to show the power of the imagination not only to surmount crises, but also to reassert the decencies and our common humanity."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Australian Book Review, October, 2002, Margaret Robson Kett, review of Young Digger and Soldier Boy.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July-August, 1995, pp. 15-16.
Five Owls, May, 1996, review of The Burnt Stick, p. 102.
Horn Book, November-December, 1995, Maeve Visser Knoth, review of The Burnt Stick, p. 743.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 1995.
Magpies, March, 1995, Kevin Steinberger, review of The Burnt Stick, p. 27; July, 1999, review of Growing up and Other Stories, p. 38; May, 2001, review of Soldier Boy, p. 24; May, 2002, review of Forbidden, p. 33; September, 2002, review of Young Digger, p. 37.
Publishers Weekly, July 10, 1995, p. 58.
School Librarian, August, 1995, p. 108.
School Library Journal, October, 1995, Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, review of The Burnt Stick, pp. 133-134.
Lateral Learning Speakers' Agency Web site, http://www.laterallearning.com/ (September 15, 2005), "Anthony Hill."
Orana Online, http://www.alia.org.au/publishing/orana/ (March, 2003, Maureen Nimon, "We Are One and We Are Many: Rewriting Australian National Stories for Young People."