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

Saturday 5 October 2019

Review: Trouble in the Surf

When you think of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, you probably think of planes and his record-breaking flights.

Did you know that an incident when he was just a child could have ended his life and changed that piece of Australian history?

This is the story of that incident which took place when Charlie was just a nine year old boy.

Trouble in the Surf is atmospheric, and you'll feel transported back to the early 20th century. This is history that doesn't read as dry or factual. It's accessible and adventurous.

Charlie and his cousin, Rupert travel by tram for a day at Bondi Beach. In their oh so fashionable for the time swimming costumes, they spend their time larking about and imagining their future. Charlie reveals he wants to fly like the seagulls.

Unfortunately the cousins find themselves drifting and unable to return to safety. The illustrations give a real sense of the boys' fear and the feeling of being caught, showing both above and below water.

The story's perspective switches back and forth a little, as the difficulty is noticed on the beach and responded to. People on shore are quick to jump into action.

It's not a spoiler to say the boys are saved, although it's not just a quick rescue story, and there could have been quite a different outcome.

Trouble in the Surf shares Australian history and culture in an enjoyable way. There's the boy who would become famous, the iconic Bondi Beach, and the lifesavers and inate water safety message that is a beneficial reminder for everyone.

The book includes several pages of information about swimming safely, a short glossary, and references for further reading. There's also information about what happened to Charlie later in life, and about Surf Lifesaving Australia.

It may suprise you to learn that the official lifesaving club at Bondi was started just weeks after young Charlie and Rupert were rescued.  

Trouble in the Surf is an excellent tribute to the important work of life savers, insight into a little piece of our history, and an all around great story for families.

Title: Trouble in the Surf
Author: Stephanie Owen Reeder
Illustrator: Briony Stewart
Publisher: National Library of Australia, $24.99
Publication Date: October 2019
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780642279460
For ages: 5+
Type: Picture book