Review Blog

Oct 17 2013

That boy, Jack by Janeen Brian

cover image

Walker Books, 2013. ISBN 9781922179005.
(Age: 10-13) Highly recommended. Life is hard in the 1870's for a 12 year old boy in a Moonta, a South Australian mining town. Jack goes to school and enjoys studying but he has made a pact with his friend Gilbert that they will both go down the copper mine together. The problem for Jack is he is terrified of being underground and really wants to continue with his education.
Life in the mines is harsh and tragic circumstances force Gilbert to leave school and help support his family. Jack must decide whether to choose the mine or school.
This story transports the reader to another time and way of life. It is an insight into the everyday lives of Cornish mining families in Moonta. Young Jack and Gilbert have to take on obligations that today would only be considered adult responsibilities.
Scenes vary from the fun and inventiveness of Jack and Gilbert's attempt at building a billycart to the dark and inhospitable world of the mines. I felt claustrophobic when Jack ventured down the mine for the first time!
Injury and childhood sickness are also highlighted as being life- threatening occurrences in the 1870's. Even Jack's left-handedness is dealt harshly by one of the teachers.
Janeen has accurately portrayed Jack's world and the indecisions he has about his future. A promise to a friend or follow your heart?
A glossary at the back of the book will help the reader understand some of the Cornish words and slang used.
This book is highly recommended for years 5 to 7 and will be a great text to use in the current history curriculum.
Jane Moore

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