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Review: Just Jack

May 1, 2012

“Just Jack”  by Adele Broadbent

Nominated in the Junior Fiction category of the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards 2012

Set in 1930s Hawkes Bay, ‘Just Jack’ is about a 14 year old boy who wants to become a jockey.  Nick-named “Wee Jack”  due to his small size, he’s never felt able to live up to his Grandfather’s and father’s expectations, unlike his brother, Robert.  Fortunately, his Uncle Onslow arranges for Jack to leave Ormondville and go to Napier, for an apprenticeship with a racehorse trainer, Mr Mac.

But instead of riding horses, he works tirelessly in the stables for a harsh and demanding boss.  There are some other interesting characters, such as his kind and slightly dotty landlady, Mrs Davis and her cat Marmite.  Plus the other stable-hand, Kenny, who tries to get him into trouble so Jack must constantly use his wits to keep one step ahead of him. Eventually, upon hearing about Jack’s plight, his Uncle Onslow arranges another apprenticeship at a much larger stable in Napier.

Jack seems to have landed in a dream job with kind employers and a very pretty daughter too.  Jack is finally living his dream of learning to become a jockey.  Then Jack makes a stupid mistake and his future is jeopardised. But everything changes as the Napier earthquake strikes and Jack must use all of his resourcefulness and courage to get through. 

I found this book to be a very good read which gives the reader a good insight into the era of the 1930s.  It provides a  good snapshot of the Napier earthquake.  All in all, a very good read, which will appeal to more than the target audience of 8-13 year olds.  By Pamela

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