Review Blog

Aug 28 2014

Blueback by Tim Winton

cover image

Viking, 2014. ISBN 9780670078004.
(Age: Yr 4+) 'Abel Jackson had lived by the sea here at Longboat Bay ever since he could remember. His whole life was the sea and the bush. Every day was special, his mother always told him this, but it all became much more precious the day he first shook hands with old Blueback.' But little did ten year-old Abel know that first meeting with this huge, already old groper on his regular morning dive for the abalone in the bay, would shape his entire life. Driven by a desire to know what the groper knows and what it has seen, his connections to the ocean become stronger as he gets older, if that were possible, and the reader follows his life through to his becoming a world-renowned marine biologist but ultimately being inexorably drawn back to his roots.
The re-release of this classic by Tim Winton has many reviews and resources online, and it is testament to the quality of the story that it has endured since first being published in 1997 and is now included in a collection of stories 'too precious to leave behind'. While some teacher librarians are finding that the retro covers of this collection 'are unappealing to teens', this is a story worth introducing to a new generation of readers regardless of its packaging. It has a depth to it that enables it to be enjoyed at many levels and layers, from the superficial read of the younger student to an in-depth study by more mature readers able to investigate why the author has described it as a 'contemporary fable'. There are formal teaching notes at the publisher's website.
Winton's knowledge of and affinity with the ocean is well known and his descriptions of diving and the beauty that lies beneath the surface brought back so many memories of a long period of my life spent under the ocean as a scuba diver. I was inspired to go below by an ancient television series called Sea Hunt; I believe Blueback has the power to inspire a new generation.
Barbara Braxton

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