Review Blog

Jul 29 2013

The keeper by Rosanne Hawke

cover image

University of Queensland Press, 2013. ISBN 9780702249730.
'Gran used to watch me like a one-legged gull at a picnic' is one of the brilliant expressions from The keeper. Set in a small seaside town on the Yorke Peninsula, this marvellous story centres upon Joel, a young boy without parents who lives with a loving Grandmother. Having a learning disability and a tendency to respond to taunting bullies with his fists, Joel is frequently in trouble at school and is frustrated and angry, except when fishing or playing with his friend Mei, the daughter of a local fisherman.
Fed up with not having a Dad, Joel places an advert in the newspaper to offer the position and is impressed when tough looking biker Dev arrives on a Harley to try out for the job. The pair establish a friendship with shared experiences, conversation and intuitive understanding which is developed by the opportunity to compete in the annual fishing competition, a chance previously denied to the fatherless Joel.
This is a genuinely enjoyable novel and wholesome but realistic life lessons are delivered within a captivating story and polished narrative. Hawke presents a flawed individual with a shady past who has learned from his mistakes and seeks to teach a youngster to avoid conflict and violence. The author is to be commended for including such a character whilst avoiding gushing sentimentality or diminishing the threatening nature of bikies, drugs and crime.
The basis of the relationship may be implausible to adults, especially in the context of stranger danger and child protection, however the story's development feels natural, especially given Joel's loner behaviour and tendency to keep quiet about what he gets up to.
The arrival of other significant characters from the past could be considered too contrived, however the story works satisfactorily towards an acceptable conclusion.
Written for children of 9 years onwards, Primary school librarians can be confident that the content and language is age appropriate. This story also serves the needs of older struggling readers who require less demanding text but still enjoy well-crafted narrative with a solid plot.
Rob Welsh

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