Norman Jorgensen, Jack’s island, Fremantle Press, January 2024, 224 pp., RRP $17.99, ISBN 9781760992958
Jack’s island by Norman Jorgensen is not only a rattling good read but remains an enduringly popular choice for classroom study, hence this latest reprint with a stunning new cover design by Rebecca Mills is guaranteed to appeal to a whole new generation of readers.
A middle grade tale, told in short, punchy chapters, it introduces the irrepressible Jack and his best mate Banjo who have a knack for finding trouble, and the endearing Dafty, who inspires great loyalty and kindness. Jack’s island will pick up even the most reluctant reader and sweep them along on a tide of adventure with an easily digestible side serve of history making it perfect for the classroom by fitting neatly into so many areas of the WA curriculum, as well as the Australian curriculum. Teaching notes are available on the Fremantle Press website.
Themes of prejudice, decency and justice are handled with a light touch and as the characters develop so the reader’s understanding of them deepens. The story is leavened with many instances of humour which helps break the tension at times of high drama. Jack’s mother, the feisty Nell Jones, is a force to be reckoned with and a particularly well-drawn female character.
Life in wartime Australia, the lingering effects of The Great Depression, history, culture, classic literature, and film references are seamlessly woven into a compelling yarn. A modern Australian classic, with shades of To Kill a Mockingbird, Jack’s island stands the test of time and is still very relevant today. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Jan Nicholls