Jack's Island, by Norman Jorgensen

Banjo had pulled the pin from the grenade with his teeth like he’d seen the heroes do a thousand times at the pictures. Then he spat it out. ‘We don’t want any other kids finding a live grenade at the bottom of the cliffs and setting it off. They might not be as sensible as us.’ He flung the deadly weapon over the cliff and into the bay below. It didn’t go very far.

Jack and Banjo live on a small island off Western Australia’s coast. It’s a great life for two twelve year old boys – riding their bikes, swimming, and getting into all sorts of mischief. But in between the fun, there are some hardships, too. Australia is involved in World War II, and no one has much of anything. Then there are the prejudices of the times, which affect the boys more than they could imagine.

Jack’s Island is historical fiction in a form easily digestible for children. There is a wonderful blend of humour, facts and insight into the time period. Young readers will enjoy the novelty of the adventures that Jack and Banjo have, which include building hill trolleys, sailing in shark-infested waters and being nearly killed by test firing of naval guns. West Australian readers will enjoy the familiarity of the island location, which is based on Rottnest Island. The stories themselves are based on the adventures of author Norman Jorgensen’s father, who lived on Rottnest in the 1940s.

Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Jack’s Island, by Norman Jorgensen
Fremantle Press, 2008