With some books you just have to stay there for the long haul and this is certainly true for Henry Hoey Hobson by Christine Bongers. Up until Chapter 19 this book was easy to read but not exactly compulsive then I reached Chapter 19 and suddenly things got very interesting and I just needed to read and read as I raced to the end.
Henry Hoey Hobson has a complicated life. He only has his mum and they move around so often Henry is wary of making friends. This situation is exacerbated with his latest move when he finds he is the only boy in Year 7. To make matters worse his new neighbours seem to be a bunch of vampires complete with a coffin and the school “A” girl Angelica is a witness to all the strange comings and goings and she is not shy about advertising this to the other girls in Year 7 and boys in Year 6.
The swimming carnival is on soon. Swimming is the one skill Henry excels in. His swimmers are very old : “my old speedos were on their last legs; saggy, baggy and tissue-thin daggy.” I was so worried for Henry that on the day of the big carnival he would have a disaster with these swimmers, however, luck is on his side and Henry does score fabulous new swimmers in a most unexpected way. He also scores a better sense of his own identity and the promise of a better future!
There are some lovely parts in this story such as the description of the School Principal, the school secretary hiding behind her modesty panel possibly watching day time television and Hero a true friend to Henry. But more importantly the desperate characters make this story shine. People who do not, according to the author, fit into the jigsaw of their own families so they have had to make a jigsaw of their own. As Henry thinks just before his big race : “Something powered through me like a current. Charging every nerve in my body. The missing pieces of my jigsaw puzzle finally coming together to form a complete picture. Not like the one on every one else’s box. But one that suited me.”
This book will be enjoyed by middle primary students and it is short listed for the CBCA Award where I do think it will receive an honor award. I still want The Red Wind to be the winner but Henry Hoey Hobson is a worthy rival. There are teaching notes too.