'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Review: That Boy, Jack

As I read this book, I really worried for That Boy, Jack. I was so concerned about what would happen to him, I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

This evocative book is the reason we read. To be entertained, to be worried, to be affected.

The story transports us to 1874, where we get to experience life in a mining town through the eyes of a normal boy. Just before his twelfth birthday, it is decided that Jack will work in the mines, like his father. The mines are terrifying and Jack is scared of going underground.

This intelligent historical novel is at once thought-provoking and captivating.

There is an amazing chapter about Jack’s first journey into the inky darkness of the mines. The air is suffocating, the noise is thunderous. The work is tedious. Jack can only see by candle light and can’t talk to anyone because of the noise of the picks. 

The mines are full of dangers. Jack’s Dad has an awful cough from years of underground work. The story is set in motion by a mining accident that results in the father of Jack’s best friend losing his legs. It is gruesome and terrifying. Add to that the fear of losing siblings to childhood illnesses such as typhoid, and the amount of work required just to save up to buy a new pair of pants, and this book will be difficult to forget. 

When Jack makes an important decision to get out of the mines, things become worse and worse. The trials he goes through will haunt the reader long after the book is finished, but the reader will also come away grateful and hopefully with an understanding of hardship.

Just when I thought everything was grim in this book, Jack’s Cornish immigrant Mum makes a comment, “I thought we came here for a better life.” “We did, and it’s still a better life,” says Jack's Dad.

This beautiful Australian junior fiction novel by accomplished author Janeen Brian will easily become a classic. I cannot recommend it enough. It's absolutely brilliant.

Title: That Boy, Jack
Author: Janeen Brian
Publisher: Walker Books, $16.95 RRP
Publication Date: 1 June 2013
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781922179005
For ages: 9-13
Type: Junior Fiction