Spearo by Mary-Anne Scott
Updated: Mar 12, 2020
Sean has emigrated to New Zealand from Zimbabwe, with his mother after the death of his father. He is finding it hard to fit into school, cope with his grief and his homesickness.
He befriends a boy in his class, Mason, who is a 'mad keen spearo' and gradually becomes involved with Mason's family. Sean learns all about free diving and spear fishing, and competes with the family in competitions.
However, one accident later and he is thrust into the front line of the competition - it is all up to him.
Author Mary-Anne Scott's really knows how to capture the attention of our younger readers. Spearo is full of action, drama and cracks along at a wicked pace. But it is also full of emotion and her characters aren't afraid to show it.
Sean's desperation to 'fit in' while also coming to terms with his grief is refreshing to read.
Books are for any gender - but Spearo will inevitably be marketed and pushed towards boys. For them to read about Sean's or Mason's, and Mason's sister Nicole's, feelings and the way they work through those emotions will no doubt help other younger readers come to terms with their own feelings. Scott has also nicely worked in a parental conflict that many younger readers will relate to too - a seemingly over-bearing and over-protective mother.
Scott understands that lives are complicated and doesn't shy away from making her characters complex and full of realistic tension.
Of course, the book is also about spear fishing. The cover features Scott's son Tom and it is clear she knows a lot about the sport. Aimed at readers aged nine and up, she conveys the technical aspects of fishing in simple terms. Her passion and knowledge shine through.
Her 2018 book Sticking With Pigs introduced readers to the thrill of the hunt, about the importance of bravery and resilience, of risk-taking and exploring - and caring for - our environment. Spearo takes those aspects and puts them into a new location, the deep blue sea.
It will make a wonderful read-aloud in a primary school classroom, as well as being a popular book on the library shelves.
Spearo was a surprisingly good read. I never thought I'd want to read a book about spear fishing. But Scott instantly captured me with familiar landscapes, passion and emotion. A fantastic addition to New Zealand's middle-grade fiction scene.
Reviewer: Rebekah Lyell
OneTree House, RRP $24.