Storm Boy by Colin Thiele

‘Storm Boy’ by Colin Thiele is listed in Jane Gleeson White’s ‘Australian Classics: 50 Great Writers and Their Celebrated Works‘ and it is one of my favourite books.

I read ‘Storm Boy’ again this week and it had as much impact on me as when I read it as a child. I cried now as I cried then. I may have cried more as an adult.

This classic Australian children’s book has, like ‘The Magic Pudding‘, never been out of print since its publication in 1964.

It is a story about a boy known as Storm Boy and his friend Mr Percival, a pelican raised by Storm Boy when it was orphaned (like the boy was also orphaned). Storm Boy lives with his father Hideaway Tom in a rough hut of wood and iron, a humpy, in the Coorong.

The Coorong is a region in South Australia of ocean, estuary and sand. Storm Boy and his father live along a thin strip of sand hills and scrub:

‘A wild strip it is, windswept and tussocky, with the flat shallow water of the South Australian Coorong on one side and the endless slam of the Southern Ocean on the other’.Β 

Their only neighbour for miles is Fingerbone Bill, an aboriginal man who teaches Storm Boy about the wildlife and land that surrounds them.

Storm Boy lives a carefree existence roaming the sand hills and beach every day, in every type of weather, beachcombing and watching the birds and the ocean. He doesn’t go to school. He is very happy.

The story is a story about growing up and the heartbreak that comes with life. As he gets older Storm Boy’s idyllic life becomes increasingly threatened by the outside world.

Hunters arrive in the ‘open season’ to shoot the wild ducks and one day Storm Boy finds two dead adult pelicans and their trashed nest. He also finds three baby pelicans and takes them back to the humpy to care for them.

All three pelicans survive and two are returned to the wild. Mr Percival (the weakest) is released but returns to Storm Boy and remains his faithful companion. The relationship between the boy and the pelican is at the heart of the story.

The book ends with a shipwreck and the rescue of six fishermen (with the help of Mr Percival) and the realisation that nothing in this life can stay the same forever.

Storm Boy is a wonderful and shattering book filled with the most evocative, poetic descriptions of the wild Australian Coorong region and wildlife. Colin Thiele is a masterful storyteller who grips his readers with an emotional intensity that is hard to shift. If you read this book you will never forget it.

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27 thoughts on “Storm Boy by Colin Thiele

    1. There was a movie in the 70’s that won a lot of awards – not sure of a series in the 60’s. it’s worth the read (and it’s not very long) – the illustrations are wonderful too Martin πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Charles. It is interesting you say that because as I write these posts (I do it mainly for the writing practice and to make sure I keep up with some reading) I am thinking of my blog readers, many who live overseas, and it makes me more aware of the Australian aspect to the books.

  1. I’ll definitely add this one to my reading list – it’s available in my uni’s library. Love to read stories where the landscape is very much a part of it

  2. What Graham said.

    I remember watching ‘The Storm Boy’ as a kid (did I read the book as well? not sure) and I cried – in fact I was quite disturbed by it, and still am. How can one story say so much about place and landscape and how people relate to places and landscape, but how cruel people can be, and nature, too. And innocense – let’s not forget that.

    I’ll now spend the rest of the day in the garden, being extra loving to the dog and the cat and the chooks. If I see anyone with guns, I’ll scratch their eyes out.

    1. It really gets under your skin doesn’t it Nigel. The loss of innocence and betrayal of trust (general trust that humans should be respectful of animals and humans) is what breaks my heart and that is why I think I cried more as an adult than I did as a kid, because I can now see the fundamental truth behind the story that humans can really be horrible and that it is not that uncommon and that sooner or later all children will come to that realisation – as a child I just saw it as a few bad things in a story, not a fundamental truth that life is basically unjust. The connection with the landscape is also a strong theme which also pulls at the heartstrings, because who has not had to let go of some place that means a great deal (a first house etc.,) and experience the change (change which is another fundamental truth of life – all things must change). All very moving stuff and dealt with in such a short story.

  3. It is a beautiful story. Also one of my favourites. I can’t help but think that it influenced writers like Tim Winton. To me he has the same sensibility as a writer as Colin Thiele. I know if I read it again I would cry too!

  4. I love Colin Thiele’s books … he made quite an impression on me as a young reader. He came to our primary school library for a visit, and I was so proud to have a book signed by him … he tells the most wonderful stories in his books.

    Pinquo was the first book I read in one sitting from start to finish (and probably the first book to break my heart). Although, I have a feeling that I’ve never read Storm Boy (I must do!).

    1. That’s fantastic that you got to meet him. He lived in Brisbane in his later years. One of my tweet friends said that Colin Thiele signed his copy of Storm Boy. So good to see authors looking after their readers. I think you would rememember if you had read Storm Boy (you definitely should read it Tracey) πŸ™‚

  5. I am so glad to see all of these comments. I am going to read this book to my class during Term 4, I think it will move them deeply.

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