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The boys are going on 12 when the story begins and have to help with chores at home before and after school to ease the burden on their hardworking parents.
At first, Jack sees working at the mine as an exciting prospect, but after he experiences a panic attack in the pitch-black of a disused mineshaft he and Gilbert are exploring he begins to realise he may not be cut out for a life working underground.
He enjoys school but knows a promise is a promise, especially one made to your best friend.
After Gilbert's father is seriously injured at work, Gilbert feels he has to help bring in an income for the family. He begins working at the mine, beginning in the sorting shed grading ore.
A short while later Jack joins him, against his mother's wishes: she knows he is a clever boy and has further education in mind for him. Then one moonless night Jack's young sister Dorrie develops a life-threatening fever. Jack needs all his courage to walk cross-country for several miles with just a lantern's light to help him avoid sheer cliffs on one side and abandoned mineshafts on the other, to fetch the doctor.
Janeen Brian spins a cracking yarn here, one that young action-hungry readers will not want to put down. The chores just might have to wait!
- Rene Nol is a Dunedin reader