Creating historical fiction to engage a younger generation

Alan Tucker

Nuclear testing at Woomera, The Kokoda Track and Gallipoli are some of the significant events Alan Tucker has explored in his remarkable historical fiction books for a younger generation.

Knowing little on a subject is Alan’s driving force for researching and writing history novels for children aged ten to fourteen. He has traveled around Australia, and the world, to develop his knowledge and historic perspective to write and illustrate four Australian history books and write eight Australian historic fiction novels.

‘Passion overrode sense and I found myself devoted to reading, researching and writing in the hope of producing historical fiction that was engaging enough to educate and motivate young readers to learn more about Australian history,’ says Alan (BA(Hons) ’74, DipEd ’75).

At Flinders University, Alan mixed with an eclectic group of creative people that ignited his self-motivation to engage, learn and teach.

‘That stimulation and enhanced self-drive helped me to become an enthusiastic classroom teacher and creative writer,’ says Alan.

In his earliest book, Too Many Captain Cooks (1995), Alan examines the impact of the European invasion on the indigenous population. The book includes historical content and context on the left-hand page and illustrated comment to the right. Rich in detail and cleverly naïve in style, the paintings are often at odds with the brutal incidents depicted.

Too Many Captain Cooks was awarded the Honour Book, Children’s Book Council of Australia Eve Pownall Award for Information Books in 1994.

In 2003, The Bombing of Darwin won the NSW Premier’s Award for Young Readers and Iron in the Blood won the Australian Children’s Book Councils’ Eve Pownall non-fiction award.

With nine solo exhibitions, Alan has also distinguished himself as an artist. His extraordinary talent, energy and determination are reflected in the list of awards, commissions, workshops and artwork acquisitions, including the Art Gallery of South Australia.

In 2013, aged 60 Alan retired from teaching senior secondary students but continues to dedicate his time to researching and writing novels on historical events, including the sinking of HMAS Sydney.

‘Flinders taught me to think for myself, to seek answers to questions and to delight in examining other people’s ideas and perspectives,’ says Alan.

Alan Tucker was awarded a 2019 Flinders University Distinguished Alumni Award for his significant contribution as an artist, author and teacher committed to sharing stories from Australian history with the younger generation.

Read the full list of 2019 Alumni Award recipients

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