The Story of Tom Brennan

Topics: Family, Tram accident, Traffic collision Pages: 37 (14950 words) Published: September 11, 2012
J.C. Burke

by Joy Bloumis B.A. B.Ed. M.P.C.A



Notes on the author Synopsis Genre, structure and style Background notes on alcohol abuse Chapter summaries Themes, motifs and symbols Character analysis Quotations General discussion questions and activities Essay questions Oral assignments Short written responses Extension work Appendix: How to plan a text response 3 4 5 6 7 17 22 26 29 31 32 33 34 35

These notes may be reproduced free of charge for use and study within schools but they may not be reproduced (either in whole or in part) and offered for commercial sale. Visit for information on other Random House Australia teaching support kits and reading guides. Copyright © Random House Australia 2008


J.C. Burke was born in Sydney in 1965, the fourth of five daughters. With writers for parents, she grew up in a world full of noise, drama and books, and the many colourful characters who came to visit provided her with an endless supply of stories and impersonations. Burke decided to become a nurse after her mother lost a long battle with cancer. She specialised in the field of Oncology, working in Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplant Units in Australia and the UK. A creative writing course at Sydney University led to a mentorship with Gary Crew and the publication of Children’s Book Council Notable book White Lies (Lothian) in 2002. Burke has since written The Red Cardigan, also a CBC Notable Book, and its sequel Nine Letters Long (Random House Australia). The Story of Tom Brennan won the 2006 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year: Older Readers award and also the Family Therapists’ Award for Children’s Literature 2006. It has also been added to the NSW HSC Syllabus list. J.C. Burke’s latest books are Faking Sweet, Starfish Sisters and Ocean Pearl (to be published in November 2008). J.C. Burke lives on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Her teenage daughter now provides her with an endless supply of stories and impersonations! J.C. Burke loves writing for young adults, as they still have an optimistic eye on the world. Visit for more information about J.C. Burke and her books.


How would you and your family cope with a major tragedy? Would you be bitter, argue, cling together? And more importantly, how would you even begin to move on with your life? The Story of Tom Brennan by J.C. Burke starts with a fatal car accident – a young driver who’s had too much to drink goes too fast and in an instant two of his friends are dead and his cousin is left with permanent spinal injuries. But the book isn’t about the car crash; it isn’t even about the driver. This is a book about seventeen-year-old Tom Brennan, and how his life changes when his older brother, Daniel, kills two people and paralyses another. While their cousin Fin lies in hospital, unable to move, Daniel goes to jail and the Brennans are forced to move towns – they’ve become the victims of a small town’s prejudice against the family of the boy they saw as ‘an accident waiting to happen’. The residents of Mumbilli are so hostile following the tragedy that they are open in their desire that Daniel receive a severe sentence. ‘They’re saying that Daniel’s going down and that he deserves everything he gets’ (p. 108). The family must move from Mumbilli because they are no longer welcome in the town – Daniel’s actions have affected all their lives. Because they fear the reaction of the township, they leave quietly at 4.30 am. J.C. Burke uses their escape as a prologue, which lures the reader immediately into the story as a sense of mystery develops. Starting again in a new town and at a new school, how can Tom even begin to rebuild his life when his mother won’t get out of bed, his father is struggling to hold the family together, his sister is...
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