Out of sadness comes a fascinating story

By Linda Hall

Sometimes the loss of a loved one can spur someone to important achievements. So it was with Napier author Adele Broadbent with her latest children's novel, Just Jack.
Loosely based on her beloved grandfather, who was called Wee George when he was young, Just Jack tells the story of a young lad trying to prove himself to his family.
Sadly, George Baines died before the book was completed.
Set in 1931, readers meet a very scared 14-year-old Jack at the Ormondville train station, saying goodbye to his family. He's off to Hastings to become a jockey.
Her grandfather had a similar aspiration, but grew too tall for it to be practicable.
Adele says: "I was telling a friend one day about my poppa and all the things that had happened to him, and his memories of the 1931 earthquake, and she said: 'That would make a great story'.
"Sometimes the best stories are right under our nose but it takes someone else to recognise it.
"Anyway, I started to think about it and talked to poppa and decided to write it all down.
"I used to go and watch Coronation Street with him every week and he would tell me about leaving home at 14 and how hard he had to work.
"Imagine if we sent our children out into the world now at that age.
"But in 1931 that was just the done thing. You were expected to look after yourself."
Adele would read drafts of her notes to her grandfather and he would say, "Yes that's right", or "Oh no, dear, that's not how it was at all".
"In the end we hardly watched Coro. We were too busy talking.
"I promised him I would finish this book."
It's taken seven years, a lot of grieving and a "bit of a push" from her husband, but Adele has finally fulfilled her promise to her poppa.


She chose to publish the book to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake because the story includes the earthquake and its aftermath.
"I immersed myself for months in the era," Adele says. "I read everything I could get my hands on about the earthquake."
She also spent many hours researching the history local racecourses and went to the Hastings racecourse at 6am one winter's morning with no scarf or gloves on.
"That was how my grandfather described it. I wanted to feel it.
"I watched the steam coming off the horses and saw how hard the jockeys worked. It was fantastic."
Adele enjoyed the research so much she had to make herself stop and start writing. "Once I started it just flew out. I could hear the characters' voices in my head.
"I don't sleep much when I'm writing, so once I was away it didn't take long to finish.
"My dad read the drafts and then I sent it off to the publishers."
Adele has managed to combine a charming story about family, growing up and meeting challenges, with some fascinating New Zealand history.
Young readers will find themselves learning something while enjoying a great tale.
Next up for this talented writer is the sequel to her first novel, Too Many Secrets. Can't wait.
REVIEW

Just Jack
by Adele Broadbent, HarperCollins, $19.99
Wee Jack Baines is  off to Hasting to be an apprentice jockey. He's 14 and he's scared, but he certainly can't let his family know that.
When he arrives at the train station there is no one to meet him and he has to walk for miles, dragging his suitcase in the pouring rain.
Lost, tired and drenched to the bone he finally meets Kenny, who has been sent  to look for him.
Kenny gives him directions but leaves him to find his own way. Kenny also tells him his new boss is not happy about Jack being late.
When he finally reaches his destination he meets a gruff
man who takes him to the house he is to live in where he must share a room with the mean-spirited Kenny.
The only bright spot so far is Mrs Davis (the housekeeper and cook) and her cat.
Jack soon realises he is expected to work from  dawn to dusk, hard, gruelling work that leaves him exhausted.
Then when he discovers his boss has no intention of letting him ride he thinks maybe he is a failure.
But not all is lost for Jack as help comes from an unexpected source - someone steps in to help.
A great tale of courage speckled with humour and mystery.

- Northern Advocate

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