Of Boys and Boats is set in 195, as Melbourne is hosting the Olympic Games. Jack and his mates are caught up in the excitement, running their own torch relay around the block each night while the real Olympic Torch travels from Darwin to Melbourne. Jack, our young hero, discovers an unfinished sailboat in the shed of "Mad" Mick Metcalf, his neighbour. Jack tries to convince Mick to let him and mates have a go at finishing it, even though they know nothing about boats, sailing or building.
This fast-paced and uplifting novel explores the poignant friendship that develops between Jack and Mick as the boat slowly takes shape. The old man, who was shattered by the horrors of World War I, is welcomed back into the world. It is written in the first person from Jack's viewpoint. Consequently, the language is colloquial with the mild swearing of teenagers.
The themes of bullying, bigotry and intolerance are depicted in a historical context. For example, Jack's best mate since primary school is Percy, who suffered polio and has to wear callipers on his legs. Despite the serious themes and backdrop, there is a delightful sense of humour and fun. The descriptions of people are realistic and there is an emotive portrayal of positive relationships, including Jack and his dog Skip.
This is another excellent Aussie novel from those good folks at Ford Street Publishing. Ian Trevakis has written this book for a readership of teenage boys. However, there are some strong female characters in the story, and I think most lower secondary pupils will happily sail away with this novel.
About the Author Ian Trevaskis is an experienced primary school teacher and award-winning children's author. He has had a number of picture storybooks and Young Adult novels published nationally and internationally, including Edge of the World, Delilah's Dream and Hopscotch Golden Scarab. Of Boys and Boats is based on the author's own experiences of growing up in Victoria in the '50s.