Review Blog

Oct 21 2020

Of boys and boats by Ian Trevaskis

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Ford St Publishing, 2020. ISBN: 9781925804515.
(Age: 12-14) Highly recommended. The Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956 form the backdrop for this extraordinary story about a group of friends. Jack (who suffers from asthma) and Percy (whose legs have been affected by polio) have always been friends. They welcome Heinrich (the new kid from Germany) and Anna (who is also an immigrant from Italy) into their little group when they decide to run a pretend Olympic torch around their neighbourhood. Unfortunately, the local bully Bruiser loves nothing more than to spoil all their fun. It seems to Jack that Bruiser and his mates Ferret and Stinky McGee have been lurking in the shadows terrorizing them for Jack's whole life and he laments that he hasn't yet had the courage stand up to them.
The little gang become a great group of friends and when they discover an unfinished boat in a shed behind Mad Mick's house, they make plans to try to finish it so that Percy can experience sailing. Jack meets Mad Mick when Jack's dog Skip is hurt by a car. So, Jack works up the courage to ask Mick if the group can finish the boat and Mick agrees if, in exchange, Jack reads to Mick each day. All is going well, with Heinrich's knowledge of boats and the groups commitment to working on the boat each day, until Bruiser and his gang steal the boat plans and a special photo album that belongs to Mick. Will they ever finish the boat now and sail her on the bay the way Mick did so many years before with his precious love Edith?
A fast-paced dramatic story with touches of humour that explores several relationships; between Jack and Mick, who talks to the ghost of his brother lost in the war, the connection Jack has with his parents, especially his dad who is in hospital with tuberculosis and was an alcoholic. The way that Jack and his buddies finally defeat Bruiser and his gang is priceless and proves the strength of friendship will always prevail.
Teacher's notes are available for this book on the Ford Street Publishing website. Themes: Friendships, Bullying, Olympic Games, Boats, World War One, Immigration.
Gabrielle Anderson

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