Review Blog

Mar 14 2016

Barney and the secret of the whales by Jackie French

cover image

Harper Collins, 2016. ISBN 9780732299446
(Age: 9+) Highly recommended. Barney and the secret of the whales is set in 1791 when Australia was still a relatively new colony. In this story, readers will meet Barney. He arrived in the colony as the son of a convict who was then adopted by the minister and his family on his mother's death. A chance encounter with a whaling captain and the promise of riches, leads Barney to join the crew of the whaling ship and leave the security of the colony. Barney doesn't know what lies ahead but learns quickly thanks to being the youngest crew member and mistreated regularly by everyone. Life at sea is harsh. Barney's job is to sit at the top of the mast and look for whales. He sleeps, works, aches and misses home. After watching the death of his first whale, Barney realises that all the money in the world will not make him happy and the death of the whale is not what he wants to see or participate in. Will he last three years at sea? Can he survive the death of another whale?
Barney and the secret of the whales is a historical narrative aimed at readers aged 9+. Jackie French has created an engaging and descriptive insight to life, twisting fact and fiction. This would be an excellent class novel for year 4 and 5 History and is a great model for historical narratives. Highly recommended for all readers.
Kylie Kempster

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