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A New Australian: Meet Teresa, the plucky new heroine in a historical book for primary readers

March 7, 2016

Teresa Fontana doesn’t fully understand why her beloved country of Malta keeps getting bombed. She just knows when she has to go into the shelters it will be dark and scary, and she needs to keep her hanky over her mouth and breathe real slow. At least her Nanna is there, and her Mama, and her best friend George. Papa is away fighting as a gunner, but she thinks of him every day. xteresa.jpg.pagespeed.ic.YmrLQNdIIa

Years pass, until one day Papa announces a new exciting plan- they’re moving to Australia! Teresa is thrilled by the prospect of a new world to explore. She goes for the interview, ironing down her hair and making sure she stays out of the sun to avoid tanning. Before long the news arrives that the Fontana family have been approved! Although she is heartbroken to have to leave George behind (his limp from a near miss marks him as ‘flawed’), she promises to write. Her Nanna decides she wants to stay behind too but George promises he will read Teresa’s letters to her, and Teresa has her gold cross necklace to wear and remember.

‘It will take Malta years to rebuild.. but Australia is ready to offer us a future now.’ 

After six long weeks at sea and one great new friend for Teresa, the Fontanas arrive in their new home – Sydney, Australia. Her parents go to work and Teresa starts at school, but everything is not as they had hoped. Whether it is long days, the new culture, the cockroaches or some people making the Fontanas feel as if they don’t belong, Sydney is very different and scarily new. How will Teresa be able to make Australia feel like her home?

Teresa is the newest novel in the ‘New Australian’ series from Omnibus Books, an imprint of Scholastic. The series are written by different Australian authors and cover various periods of history, but all the stories are focused on children leaving their countries and coming to Australia. The books confront issues around upheaval and the unknown, and are ideal for students in Years 3-6.


Deb's own grandmother Teresa

Deb’s own grandmother Teresa

The story for Teresa comes from author Deb Abela’s own background. Deb has written many books for young Australians, including the ever-popular ‘Max Remy, Superspy’ series and Grimsdon and New City, which look at kids in a world post-climate change, with swords and sea-monsters included. Deb’s own nanna’s name was Teresa, and she single handedly brought up six kids in war-torn Malta, feeding them any way she could. Deb’s father was born in a cave (bomb shelter), and after the war, he and his family emigrated to Australia. Deb’s father was seven years old.

Deb is excited to be touring all over the country to share Teresa and her story. Check her website at for more information, and click here to read more and to purchase a copy of Teresa (images thanks to Deb Abela and Scholastic).


Educators might be interested in the teachers notes for Teresa, available here. 

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