Review Blog

Aug 03 2017

Shoot-out at the Rock by Jane Smith

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Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy Book 1. Big Sky Publishing, August 2016. ISBN 9781925275940
(Age: 7+) Tommy Bell is a young boy who has trouble at school, most of which he makes for himself. At the beginning of the book, he is kept in at lunchtime because he failed a history test on the Gold Rush days. This led to him missing out on buying a doughnut at the tuckshop, which led to him kicking another boy who stole and was eating a doughnut, which led to the necessity of running away and 'wagging school' for the rest of the day.
Tommy is sent to his grandparents' farm for the school holidays by his parents who say the change will help him. Tommy finds an old bushranger's hat and once he pops it on, he is swept back into Gold Rush times. Face-to-face with the dangerous Frank Gardiner and his mates 'Flash Jack' and Ben Hall, Tommy learns about the value of true friendship and about how it feels to be part of one of the most famous robberies in Australia's history.
This fast-paced book would be fantastic for young reluctant readers (aged 7 and up), particularly boys. The time travel is gripping and makes for an easy read, while at the same time learning about Australian history. This would work well with a unit about The Gold Rushes or discussions around mateship, integrity and choice.
Kathryn Schumacher

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