Mark Svendsen (author)
Woolshed Press, Random House, Australia: March 2011
Genres: adventure, marine stories, realistic fiction
Issues: identity, independence
On his first solo fishing trip, Christos finds himself fighting for his life when the dory runs aground on the reef and a tiger shark senses easy prey.
On his fourteenth birthday, Christos's father agrees that the boy can take the dory out at dawn to fish, stay overnight on a local island to explore, then come home the next day. Christos hopes to prove his worth as a fisherman and make his family proud. But those things that seem simple under his father's supervision become more complex on his own. Absorbed in his fishing, Christos, distracted by a sizeable fish on his line and a tiger shark looming, forgets to watch the direction the boat is travelling and, just on dark, runs aground on the reef. The shark remains and Christos must find a way to get the boat off the reef and himself to safety – all without going in the water.
Mark Svendsen is an experienced writer but although this novel will appeal to those who love fishing, the more general readership may find it less exciting. Svendsen uses a range of narrative perspectives, giving the reader insight into Christos' thoughts and reactions to events as well as having an omniscient. While this works at the beginning of the novel, when there are more characters, once Christos is out to sea, the focus becomes confusing as there is a fair degree of repetition between the boy's thoughts and the narrator's description of the action. Many of the fishing terms are not explicable within the context.
That said, this book has an engaging narrative and central character. Most children will relate to Christos' of proving himself to his capable, experienced father if not to his dream of bringing in a spectacular catch. Although simple, the narrative is engaging and the scenes after the dory runs aground are well depicted. Choosing a Tiger Shark as the attacker was wise, as, other than the Great White Shark it's one of the few sharks that will attack humans and it's known for its tendency to bite into anything – even boats – and has a reputation for following its prey.
While it is unclear in which era the novel is set, it seems possible that it's some decades ago. Readers should bear this in mind and take note of Christos' mixed feelings about killing some particularly spectacular fish as well as his dealings with the shark.
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