Jane Smith, Shoot-out at the Rock (Tommy Bell Bushranger Boy #1), Big Sky Publishing, August 2016, 85pp., (pbk), ISBN 9781925275940
Tommy Bell is a young boy who has trouble at school, most of which he makes for himself. At the beginning of the book, he is kept in at lunch time because he failed a history test on the Gold Rush days. This led to him missing out on buying a doughnut at the tuckshop, which led to him kicking another boy who was eating a doughnut and stealing the aforementioned doughnut, which led to the necessity of running away and ‘wagging school’ for the rest of the day.
Tommy is sent to his grandparents’ farm for the school holidays by his parents who say the change will help him. (It probably helps them too, but that is not part of the story.) The holiday does help him, in the most exciting way; Tommy finds an old bushranger’s hat and once he dons it he is swept back into Gold Rush times where he meets the daring but unhappy bushranger Captain Thunderbolt.
Shoot-out at the Rock is a great book, especially for young boys who don’t like reading. Time travel is always gripping and when it is combined with fast horses, narrow escapes, moral dilemmas and dangerous adventures how could they resist? They may even fail to notice that they are learning about Australian history at the time.
Jane Smith specialises in writing history books for children and her research and writing skills are excellent. Very good teaching notes on her Australian Bushrangers Series could be adapted and easily used with this novel.
Shoot-out at the Rock is suitable for children aged six to eight, but would also be suitable for older children with delayed reading skills or migrants who wish to learn about Australian history in their English lessons. I’m not six, but I had to read it in one sitting. It’s a good book!
Reviewed by Katy Gerner