Trent Maxwell & David Lawrence (text), and Peter Baldwin (illustrator), In Deep Water (Maxi the Lifeguard #1), Affirm Press, September 2018, 168 pp., RRP $12.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781925584967
This is the first book in a series about Maxi, an 11 year old boy who dreams of becoming a lifeguard on Bondi Beach. The series has been developed from the experiences of real-life lifeguard and television personality, Trent Maxwell, from ‘Bondi Rescue’. So far there are two books available that follow Maxi’s adventures with his friends, sporty Rachel and brainiac Felix. The other key characters are school bully Josh, Maxi’s grandfather, the quirky Grandpa Bill, and local lifeguard and hero Mick Hawk.
In Deep Water begins with Maxi giving up sailing and joining the Buckler Swim Club junior lifesaver program. Although Maxi is great at sailing and has won a number of awards, he hides a secret: he is terrified of deep water, so he wants an activity that will take place closer to the shore. The juniors program focuses on swimming, surf skills and water safety. Shortly after Maxi joins he discovers the five local clubs will be having a competition that involves all these skills, with the winner receiving $5000 for their club, as well as a day with Maxi’s hero, Mick Hawk. Maxi becomes determined to win the competition, even though it is only a month away and he is only a beginner.
With his grandfather’s help, Maxi begins a serious training regime and soon moves from being a slow beginner to having a serious chance at winning. He learns and practices techniques whilst building strength and stamina. His friend Rachel turns out to be his main competition within the club, and local bully Josh is the greatest threat to winning overall. Josh has taken out various club competitions and worse, starts to sabotage Maxi.
As Maxi continues to get better, he has to face another fear: public speaking. Giving a speech is part of the competition. Eventually he realises that, like the training he is doing, he can get better with practice. Ultimately Maxi doesn’t win the competition because he stops to rescue his friend Felix.
The story’s themes of facing your fears, having goals, and working hard to achieve them come through in a realistic, entertaining way. There is a lack of gender balance in the cast of characters, but Maxi’s friend Rachel is a fully-rounded, high-achieving personality who holds her own against the boys. The story moves at a good pace, with plenty of humour and interesting twists and turns, and the black and white illustrations are quirky and fun. As an added bonus the book comes with a word search puzzle, two pages of information on identifying and staying safe around rips at the beach and, on the back page, a section on beach safety tips.
Reviewed by Rachel Le Rossignol
- Read Rachel’s review of #2, The Stormy Protest