Blueback by Tim Winton
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 is a Children’s & YA Book Specialist at Readings Hawthorn.