The Melting Pot (My Australian Story)

Student Reviewer:

Olivia S.
Year 6

The Melting Pot is a book written by Christopher W. Cheng. It is a historical fiction book and written in a diary format. Within the book are 260 pages of a story about a young boy from a mixed marriage who lives in Australia under the white Australia policy in 1903 – 1904. Additionally, it contains 7 pages of historical notes. It was first published in 2007 with a target audience of children aged 9-12 years old.

This story is about the Australian Chinese immigration policy. This story is also about Chek Chee, an Australian-Chinese boy who struggles to find his place at home and at school. It explains how ordinary, hardworking Chinese people were effected by this policy. It also showed how children from mixed marriages were oppressed and acknowledged by neither the English or some of the Chinese. The English thought they were too Chinese and vice versa. Chek Chee is tormented by his white cousin at home and at school by both Chinese and Australian classmates. However, this story also demonstrates how people’s opinions can and will change through experience, for example his classmates. “This country is a melting pot with ingredients coming from all over the world…” Chek Chee claims that he is a result of this melting pot and ponders why all people are not treated equally.

The main character Chek Chee, (also known by his English name Edward) is tormented at school continuously and it does not get better at home. His cousin –Elizabeth- is very opinionated and refuses to believe that the Chinese are just ordinary people who try hard to look after themselves and their families. Chek Chee ignores all the abuse as he doesn’t want to disappoint his parents, however, within the privacy of his journal he is hurt. This all changes one day when he picks up a cricket ball and bowls someone out – instantly he is a part of the game that all the other boys are playing … cricket. He plays with the other boys and suddenly he doesn’t feel so ostracised. He is still bullied, but now he has his new-found friends to support, protect him and stand-up for him. Chek Chee’s father constantly says that Chek Chee is the bridge between worlds throughout the book, and Chek Chee knows that this means he must try to improve relations between the English and Chinese when he is older.

The book was very interesting, factual and even though I knew a lot about the Chinese immigration policy beforehand it renewed facts, showed how people felt about it on a more personal level and how the ‘Bridges’ (Children with an English parent and a Chinese parent) were treated at school and how families treated each other. However, the story itself was confusing and there were too many side characters that required a bit more elaboration. This book presents the facts well, however, more attention could have been paid towards the story and additionally more facts could have been included in the historical notes. This book was an excellent read for history at school, however, it would not make a great read for personal enjoyment. This book has a good underlying theme and a good moral which was respect. Whilst informative, the book would tend to be quite tedious as well as repetitive.

This book would be ideal for 10-12 year-old students to read as a teaching aid to learn more about post-federation Australia and the White Australia policies. This would, on the other hand, not be a book that I would recommend for a child to read as a novel for entertainment. Although this book states that its target audience is 9-12 year-olds, I would not recommend this book for a 9 year old as there are some words that a 9 year old might not understand or the words are too long and as a 9 year old has often just learnt how to read it would not be ideal to get them to read this book.