Blueback: Australian Children's Classics

Tim Winton

Blueback: Australian Children's Classics
Penguin Books Australia
25 June 2014

Blueback: Australian Children’s Classics

Tim Winton

Abel Jackson loves to dive. He’s a natural in the water. He can’t remember a time when he couldn’t use a mask and snorkel to glide down into the clear deep.

Life is tough out at Longboat Bay. Every day the boy helps his mother earn their living from the sea and the land. It’s hard work but Abel has the bush and the sky and the bay to himself. Until the day he meets Blueback, the fish that changes his life. Blueback is about people learning from nature.

The final volume in the iconic Penguin Australian Children’s Classics series, Blueback is a deceptively simple allegory about a boy who matures through fortitude, and finds wisdom by living in harmony with all forms of life. A beautiful distillation of Winton’s art and concerns.


I fell in love with Tim Winton when I read That Eye the Sky many years ago, however, children need not wait until their twenties to form a relationship with him because he’s written quite a few kids’ books too, the finest being Blueback. I wept at its beauty. It is a tiny, atmospheric gem of a story; a perfect fusion of sea and sensibility, of shimmering ocean and sparkling prose. The genius is in its brevity and at the same time its expansiveness.

Although it is quintessentially Australian, it speaks of the world and our tiring planet. Even 20 years ago Winton was prescient about climate change! But I race on because in the beginning we have a boy who loves the sea. It is his playground and part of his family’s history. He also loves a big, old fish that swims with him and he loves his mother, who taught him the ways of the ocean and how to respect it. They live sustainably from nature and eschew material things. When he has to go away to school he feels he is holding his breath until he can get back home.

Other fishermen come and go, some honouring the sea and its creatures, others come only to plunder. Abel fears for his beautiful bay and his old marine pal, Blueback. Winton’s love for the Australian landscape leaps off the page and his understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of humanity are gently and wisely explored. This is Abel’s coming-of-age story and Winton’s homage to a landscape he hopes will prevail. This is a superb modern Australian classic for every child and adult.

Alexa Dretzke

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