Craig Silvey is the author of Rhubarb and The World According to Warren, a picture book affectionately starring the guide-dog from Rhubarb.
The book opens dramatically when Charlie, the narrator, is taken by Jasper Jones to a macabre scene at the old jarrah tree by the river. Charlie's peaceful- if nerdish-life is overturned 'like a snowdome paperweight that's been shaken'. Throughout a summer of cricket matches, the Vietnam War and shy courtship of the beautiful Eliza, some disturbing facts are revealed while others remain suppressed. Present tense and short sentences are often employed, enticing the reader along at a lively pace. The feel and smell of small-town Australia are evoked skillfully, and yet (many) literary references are to US classics, Mark Twain and especially To Kill a Mockingbird. Elements of the coming-of-age story are mixed with those of the detective novel, livened with scenes of laugh-aloud humour. The sparring dialogue between Charlie and his friend Jeffrey, and the references to aspiring novelists will seem-to some readers-true to character, to others, tiresome. Jasper Jones, the Aboriginal scapegoat for the town's misadventures, is elusive and independent to the end. Themes of courage and cowardice, and the vitality of the ever- observant Charlie, will ensure this book's appeal especially to readers who are young and/or male. Robin Morrow, a former bookseller, now teaches literature at university
Australian author Silvey wears his influences (notably To Kill a Mockingbird) a little too obviously on his sleeve in a novel about crime, race, and growing up in a 1960s Australian mining town. Charlie, 13, is woken up on a hot summer night by teenage outcast Jasper, who wants to show him something secret. That secret turns out to be the dead body of Laura Wishart, Jasper's occasional paramour and the older sister of Charlie's own crush, Eliza. The boys, assuming that Jasper will be blamed, hide the body, and Laura's disappearance combines with the boys' guilt and lies to create an ongoing spiral of stress. The town of Corrigan is rife with racism, which is directed mainly at the half-aboriginal Jasper and Charlie's Vietnamese best friend, Jeffrey. The banter between Jeffrey and Charlie drives the novel's lighter scenes, but can distract, feeling more like Tarantinoesque pop culture asides than anything else. Still, when Silvey, making his U.S. debut, focuses on the town's ugly underbelly, as well as the troubles in Charlie's family, the novel is gripping enough to overcome its weaknesses. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Gr 10 Up-A rap on the window awakens 13-year-old Charlie Bucktin. He's startled to find Jasper Jones, the bad boy of his small Australian town, frantic and in need of his help. Charlie follows Jasper into the night and is led to the battered body of Laura Wishart, hanging from the noose of a eucalyptus tree. Jasper is desperate to cut Laura down as the rope around her neck belongs to him. Convinced of Jasper's innocence, Charlie helps submerge Laura's body in a river and the boys vow to find Laura's killer. Set in the 1960s during the Vietnam War, Craig Silvey's novel (Knopf, 2011) perfectly captures the time period. Charlie's small town reacts with fear at Laura's disappearance and the bigotry simmering just below the surface of the town erupts into violence. Matt Cowlrick gives each character a unique voice and his pacing is impeccable. Strong language and mature content make this appropriate for older teens.-Tricia Melgaard, formerly Broken Arrow Public Schools, Tulsa, OK (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.