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Children's book cover.

The Greenaway family are struggling to cope during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Dad is an unemployed carpenter and always grumpy. Mum works extremely hard to keep the family fed and cared for.

One day when Jo Boy is home from school sick, the Saw Doctor knocks on the door looking for work sharpening knives or tools. Despite their financial hardship, Mum finds enough money to have her scissors sharpened. When Dad is finally offered some building work, he cannot accept as his tools are too blunt.

In the meantime, Jo Boy goes yabbying and discovers the Saw Doctor’s amazing wagon at a local park. When he returns his yabby net to its home under the house, he discovers some lead sinkers. He is able to sell the lead and take his father’s tools to be sharpened by the Saw Doctor. Jo Boy learns about the Saw Doctor’s philosophy in life, and wins the love and respect of his father.

Discussion questions

  • How did the Great Depression affect Jo Boy and his family?
  • What did Jo Boy’s mother have to do to keep her family clean and cared for? In what ways would her work be easier today?
  • Describe Jo Boy’s dad. How do you feel towards this character?
  • What did Jo Boy and Jimmy think about the wagon when they first saw it? What might you think if you saw it in a local park?
  • How did Jo Boy feel about the Saw Doctor when he first met him? How did Jo Boy’s feelings change?
  • What was the message of the Saw Doctor’s poem?
  • How do you think Jo Boy felt at the end of the book? Why?

Classroom activities

  1. Ask students to create a story map. Students should identify the key settings and events in the story. They should use a series of illustrations to map the unfolding of events.
  2. Ask students to complete the Diary of a day worksheet (PDF 2.9mb). By focusing on chapter two, students describe how Jo Boy filled his time when he was home sick. Students then compare Joe Boy’s life in the 1930s to their own.
  3. Ask students to complete The Saw Doctor’s wagon worksheet (PDF 2.1mb). Students create signs and decorate ‘gee gaws’ to help advertise the Saw Doctor’s wagon.
  4. Discuss the meaning of ‘philosophy’ with your students. Read the Saw Doctor’s poem on page 49 and discuss its meaning. Ask students to identify their own ‘philosophies’. Students should create poems or sayings that capture these beliefs.
  5. Ask students to write their own adventure story set during the Great Depression. Gary Crew begins The Saw Doctor with ‘In the 1930s ...’. Your students may like to use the same words to start their story.
  6. Students can complete an engaging interactive activity about the Saw Doctor’s wagon featured in the story.

Book details

The Saw Doctor by Gary Crew
illustrated by David Cox

ISBN 1 876944 41 2
198mm x 130mm, 64pp
black and white illustrations

Published 2006. This book is out of print.


Collection record — Saw Doctor’s wagon

Find out more about Gary Crew

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