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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