Walker Books (2013)
ISBN: 978 1 922179 00 5
Reviewed by Pearl Maya
Set in the 1870s in a mining town in South Australia, That Boy Jack is a historical novel that brings the time and place alive in a personal and understandable way.
The book is filled with the minutiae of life at the time – what people wore, ate and how they lived – as well as some of the bigger concerns like education, child labour laws, health care and a lack of social security. Brian doesn’t take a particular political stance on these issues and they are only included in context with the storyline. However, the story would be a great way of opening discussions on these subjects. In addition it is a great way to learn history for those who struggle with straight dates and places. Actually, it is great way to get an insight into that time and place for all students.
I can see this book being of interest from younger readers, say from 10, who just want a good story, through to older readers who are studying history, or doing creative writing projects.
I think it would be interesting, as a project, to assign students a particular place in time and either write a short story, or consider and research the details they would need to know – how did people get around, what did they do for fun, what sort of jobs were available different people and the like.
While the protagonist in the novel is a male, I think That Boy Jack has enough to offer female readers to keep their interest until the end.