As you may know I am a bit of a newbie when it comes to Australian children’s books, as a foreigner I still have a lot to learn and many new books and authors to discover. Luckily Penguin has made things a little easier for me by bundling Australia’s most loved children’s titles in their Australian Children’s Classics series. The final publication in this great collection has just hit the shelves and it’s a winner: Blueback by Tim Winton:
Blueback tells the story of Australian boy Abel who lives with his mother, an abalone diver, near the beach. They live off the land and the sea and he is happy, enjoying the amazing sea life and spending time with his mother. One day while diving with his mother Abel encounters a large blue groper, it’s the most beautiful fish he has ever seen and over time they become ‘friends’. Abel loves feeding Blueback and Blueback often comes out to visit Abel and his mother when they’re diving for abalone.
As Abel gets older it is time for him to leave his rural town and go to school in the city, prompting a sad goodbye from his mother and his friend Blueback. Abel lives for the school holidays when he gets to go home, smell the sea, feel the sand between his toes and enjoy the cool of the water. The years pass, Abel gets older and Blueback gets older but their bond doesn’t change. What does change is the ocean, more and more fishermen and charter boats are visiting the reef, big developers are trying to buy their land and Abel is worried about the fish, particularly Blueback.
While Abel studies and goes on to get married and become a marine biologist the reef deteriorates and his mother begins her fight to get the government to declare their precious reef a sanctuary. She succeeds and eventually dies peacefully near the sea she so loved, a few years later Abel is able to take his own daughter out diving and big old Blueback is still there. Tim Winton is a very talented story teller and he has pictured this tale of a boy and a fish beautifully, it’s almost like you’re sitting on the jetty, dipping your toes in the water and watching it all unfold.
To find out more about Blueback (RRP $19.99) by Tim Winton, published by Penguin Books Australia, and to order online visit www.penguin.com.au.