My Australian Story: Vietnam, by Deborah Challinor

It’s supposed to be a fair way to decide who does national service and who doesn’t, but Mum reckons it isn’t. She says the fate of a mother’s son shouldn’t depend on a number picked out of a barrel. The marbles that go in the barrel have the days of the month on them. An agreed number of marbles are drawn out of the barrel, and if your birth date is on one, you’re ‘balloted in’.

It’s 1969 and Davey’s big brother Tom has been conscripted. Chosen because of his birthdate, he has no choice but to report for service. Soon, Tom is in Vietnam and his family are back home worrying about him. But there are other things happening in Davey’s life, too. He and his two best mates love surfing, and are determined to win the inaugural Newcastle Under-14 Championship. Thye are fascinated, too, by the planned moon landing, and follow preparations keenly. But growing up isn’t always fun, and Davey and his mates have some hard lessons to learn.

Vietnam , part of the My Australian Story series, is a wonderful diary format story giving an insight into Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War through the experiences of one family. It also offers a snapshot of late 1960s life, including the music of the time, key events in the year, the union movement, the impact of war on generations of Australians and more.

An excellent offering for primary aged readers.

My Australian Story: Vietnam , by Deborah Challinor
Scholastic Australia, 2015
ISBN 9781743628003

The Break, by Deb Fitzpatrick

‘…You mean live there?’
‘Yeah.’
The woman next door was clattering about in her garden, shushing the dog when it barked.
‘Well…’ He struggled to get it into his head. ‘Why would we do that, exactly?’…
‘To be our own people,’ she eventually managed, in a whisper.
‘Instead of…’ And he was quiet for a moment. ‘Being other people’s people,’ he said finally.

Rosie can’t be a journalist if it involves chasing ambulances and looking for shock value. Cray has had enough of the fly in fly out lifestyle, especially when it means long stretches away from home. When they throw in their jobs, they decide to make a change, and head down to Margaret River, a place they’ve always loved. But starting again in a place that’s facing challenges of its own might not be all plain sailing.

Fergus and Liza have always lived in Margies, and Fergus runs the farm which his father built up. Their son Sam loves life – watching stars, fishing and swimming in the river, and following his favourite sci-fi serial on the computer his much loved uncle gave him. The only thing he doesn’t like is when his parents fight. Lately they’ve been arguing more, especially about Uncle Mike.

Rosie gets to know Liza and Sam, through their common concern of the effects a big development will have on their favourite piece of coastline. Development, though, proves the least of their worries, when the coastline itself proves a natural enemy.

The Break is a heart-wrenching novel about family, community, loss and change, set in the South West of Western Australia in the 1990s. Though there are parallels with real events,including the Gracetown Cliff Collapse in 1996, this is a work of fiction, allowing readers into the lives of deftly drawn characters and allowing readers to consider one version of how such an event might impact individuals and a community. Fitzpatrick does this with a special touch.

This is Fitzpatrick’s first novel for adults, but would also be suitable for young adult readers.

 

The Break, by Deb Fitzpatrick
Fremantle Press, 2014
ISBN 9781922089632

Available from good bookstores and online.

Layne Beachley – Beneath the Waves

Neil Beachley was in New Zealand on business when he received the phone call from his wife, Val, at home in Balgowlah Height, Sydney. ‘I’ve got to go and pick up my baby tomorrow,’ she informed him, her tone matter-of-fact. ‘Two things: what are we going to call it and how do I get there?’ It had been just ten months since the couple had applied to the child welfare authorities in New South Wales to adopt a baby girl, and both were pleasantly surprised, but unfazed, by the simplicity and speed of the process.,br> ‘Buggered if I know,’ came Neil’s characteristic response to the question of the child’s name. ‘You think of something.’

Layne Beachley: Beneath the Waves is a biography of one of the biggest names in women’s surfing. It documents her story from birth through to the present, acknowledging that there will be more to come. Layne Beachley was born in 1972, six weeks early, and relinquished by her seventeen year-old birth mother after being told by her father that unless she did so she would be cast out of the family. She was adopted by Neil and Val Beachley. She began surfing at age four and according to all who knew her was characterised by her determination and will to win. Her journey to become a world champion is a long one, and full of twists and turns in both her professional and private life. Along the way, she attracted her share of detractors with her outspoken enthusiasm and self-promotion. There were also many, many and supporters as she competed her way into the record books and fought for recognition of the sport she loved.

Everyone has a story and how that story is told is dependent on who tells it and why. Michael Gordon interviewed extensively for this biography and often uses direct quotes from sources in building a picture of the life of champion surfer. There are accounts from Beachley’s family, friends and supporters but also from competitors, sponsors and commentators.

Elite athletes are viewed as public figures, in much the way that movie stars are. It’s difficult for them to maintain a private life or to control how they are perceived in the media. Their training for this public life is seldom as complete as the training for their sport. For example, the meeting of 26 year-old Layne Beachley with her birth mother was coloured by the media as well as by the personalities involved. Beachley’s diary entries bring the reader close to her emotions as she travels the professional surfing circuit, while others give perspective to her sometimes harsh self-assessments. There is much here for the aspiring professional surfer, or any other athlete, as well as for the reader wanting to understand more about one of Australia’s best known surfers.

Layne Beachley: Beneath the Waves, Michael Gordon
Ebury Press 2008
ISBN: 9781741667288

Surfing Goliath, by Michael Hyde

Every three years this mammoth surf appeared. It was the stuff of legend among bodyboarders in the area – particularly those who lived at Brown’s Beach. Locals called the waves, some bigger than four metres high, Goliath.

Seal and his mates, Nuts, Crab and Dolphin love to body surf. As the time of the mammoth surf approaches, they practise every day. Seal learns that Goliath is also the name of an enormous bronze whaler shark who visits the area every three years with the freakish surf. Still, the friends are determined to pit their skills against Goliath, just as Angelo, shark-catcher, is determined to capture the bronze whaler. News of the surf and the plan to ride it filters out to the city media and the little town is overrun with journalists keen for the big scoop. Seal wishes they would understand it wasn’t about being seen to do something, it was about doing it.

Surfing Goliath is an exciting, action-packed story. Seal and his mates are fearless and apprehensive by turns as they contemplate Goliath. The rivalry and banter between boarders and riders is realistic and the description of boardriding is detailed. Other characters, like Seal’s dad Joe and his grandmother Ruby play their roles convincingly.

There are plenty of themes to be explored here, yet the themes sit lightly on an adventure base. Recommended for upper primary/early secondary readers.

Surfing Goliath by Michael Hyde
Lothian 2006
ISBN: 0734409060

To the Light, by Pat Flynn

School. It’s not that I hate it. It’s just that I don’t exactly fit in…And I have a sister who has all the kids and teachers fooled into thinking she’s the best thing since sliced cheesebread. Okay, I do hate it.

Jamie loves surfing. Jamie doesn’t like school. At the beach there’s best mates Mitchell and Scott, but at school there’s bullies like Rory, who insists on calling Jamie ‘James’ and Jamie’s sister, Sky, who is ranked most popular girl in the school. How can Jamie compete?

With the final surfing event of the year approaching, Jamie is determined to do well, and a chance meeting with a stranger who rides a Malibu may just be the catalyst.

To the Light is a fun book about surfing, school, siblings and what it means to be ‘in’. The interest of the surfing lessons is supplemented by some gentle life lessons, wrapped in an entertaining package. There is a surprise twist at the end that will have readers leafing back through to see how they could have missed it.

Great reading.

To the Light, by Pat Flynn
UQP, 2005