"Sailmaker is a fast moving adventure story involving ghosts, an escaped convict, bullying and boyish rivalries. Joel, with his impulsive, but questing nature, is the triumph of this book. The boy's first person narration, his struggle for self control and self confidence is convincingly portrayed, as he battles many odds. The imagery of the boy as a lighthouse rather than a sandcastle is effective. The book features well-written descriptions and many apt metaphors that highlight the themes. Joel's struggle forms a poignant exploration of ADHD."
- From 'Notable Australian Children's Books 2003' The Childrens' Book Council of Australia, p. 15.
"The lighthouse ghost, an abandoned tinny, small-town rumours: it all adds up to a mystery just waiting to be solved. Joel and Mei try their hand, and along the way lean a lot about dealing with their own fears and foes, and making sound friendships. Told from the perspective of Joel, a somewhat troubled youngster who is dealing with a range of emotions and difficulties, including daily medication, an adopted dad, a bullying troublemaker, and a flighty mum, the story takes the reader on an action packed adventure which is easy to read, and maintains a high level of interest throughout. I particularly like the character of Vern, the old sailmaker/lighthouse keeper, whose down to earth, wise approach to life keeps Joel on track more than once. There is something for everyone in this book, and I recommend it for ages 11 and older, particularly 12-15 year olds."
- Judith Hall from Reading Time Vol 46 No 2 May 2002.
"I've not read Rosanne Hawke's The keeper but I will because its sequel, Sailmaker, is so tantalising. Joel Billings suffers from A.D.D, or did suffer, and made others suffer too, until Dev, an ex-biker who is in the first book, becomes Joel's surrogate dad, sets him straight about medication and self-control, keeping the hoof beats in my head at bay. The theme continues in Sailmaker. Joel's love for and sense of attachment to Dev is movingly clear, as is his fear that Dev may want to leave him one day . This fear is exacerbated by Joel's old enemy Shawn Houser, whose bullying taunts are an attempt to exorcise his own insecurities. As a powerful metaphor for the uncertainty that Joel must learn to conquer, Rosanne Hawke gives us a coastal sand island, receding gradually over the years and the cast-iron lighthouse that stands defiantly on it. Living in the caretaker's cottage with his beloved old dog is Vern Solomon, a sailmaker and recluse who, like Dev, is a battered survivor who has sorted out what matters in life. These two men are portrayed with lovely simplicity by the author, as is Joel's relationship with them. There is no mawkishness but a real sense of the importance of such stalwarts in troubled young people's lives. There is a lively adventure too; Joel and his best friend Mei are trapped on the island by a storm and threatened by an escapee from a prison work gang. Joel's self-control and courage have never been so tested as he uses his wits in the old lighthouse at the height of the storm.
Sailmaker is narrated by Joel in the present tense and doesn't drag dor a moment. Its central message of personal growth and resolve is set amidst some lively fishing, sail-boarding and boating action and vivid imagery of a coastal landscape. Excellent for middle primary to reluctant secondary boys. Girls might feel that Mei doesn't get much action. Maybe she does in The keeper. I'll have to find out."
- Sally Harding from Magpies. No 2 – May 2002
"'Sailmaker' is a work of art."
- Max Fatchen
"A ripping yarn."
- Courier Mail
"'Sailmaker' is a sequel as good as its forerunner."
- David Beagley, Bendigo Advertiser
"There is something for everyone in this book."
- Reading Time
- Sally Harding, Magpies.