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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Jack & Sandy by Bob Kerr

Jack & Sandy is a remarkable feat of effort and focus for author Bob Kerr. Sitting at over 100 beautifully presented pages, this story is both ambitious and deeply personal. It’s a lot to take in, and it took a few goes to get one's head in the game in order to best understand the ways that the story develops.

It’s the story of Bob Kerr’s father, Robert Kerr, and it is drawn largely from Robert’s experiences in World War II. Known for his work on Terry Teo and the Gunrunners, Kerr presents page after page of beautifully drawn and crafted graphical illustrations of the key characters in the narrative. And it’s one of those stories that ultimately teaches the reader a thing or two along the way both about warfare, but more poignantly about friendship.

Beginning close to the Coromandel in 2001, the story gives the reader an insight into the world of Jack and his mate Eddie. They intend on doing a bit of kayaking to celebrate their finishing of schooling, and along the way they make some decisions about their life after school. Jack’s mission becomes focused on meeting his grandad, Sandy, who hasn’t been a part of his or his father’s (Alec) life for some decades.

Thus begins the parallelism between the lives of Jack and his grandfather. Similar idea for Sandy and his friend Billy in Scotland in 1931. Kerr’s father was a merchant seaman and involved in some WWII convoys, as expressed in the fictional story.

Family photographs punctuate the story, along with the wonderful illustrations to break up the long-form writing. As mentioned, it is an ambitious story, and one told passionately and with great conviction. It’s that intentionality that really keeps the narrative alive when the names and the constant explanation can get a little much. Taking nonfiction elements and fictionalising them is a tough task, and while on the whole this works, there are some passages that don’t quite gel as much as one would like.

The pacing of the structure is a little laboured at times. The names and dates take too much of a central stage over the action sequences. It is sure to keep lovers of the sea entertained, and the imagery really does add a lot to the development of the narrative. Overall, an enjoyable exploration of an important part of history.

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Bateman Books


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