Going for Broke

Written by Meg McKinlay

Walker Books Australia, 2008; Walker Books UK, 2009
Ages 8-12


Nathan Foley is desperate for greatness.

Not ‘nice manners, son – here’s your merit award’ greatness.
Real greatness. Record-breaking greatness.

With fame in his sights, Nathan launches himself at the record books, again and again and again.

He’s got a splintery skateboard and a bucket of cockroaches.
He’s got a lawnmower engine and a bottle of craft glue.
He’s got the world’s most clueless pit crew.

Planning? Who needs it?
Research? What’s that?

Nathan’s on a path to glory, on a rusty old bike, with a poor sense of balance.
What could go wrong?


What Readers Are Saying:

‘a crack-up funny story’

‘From the eye catching cover design, to the sketches and touches of different text types, this is a winner.’
– Sally Murphy, Aussie Reviews

‘…good straightforward adventure featuring the kinds of things that boys of the age this is aimed at often get up to.’
– Books+Publishing


Shortlisted, Younger Readers Category, West Australian Young Readers Book Awards 2010



Download classroom ideas

Lightning Strikes series website

The continuing adventures of Nathan, Ronnie and Weasel: The Big Dig, Wreck the Halls


Behind the Story

I have two brothers – one older, one younger. You might say I was sandwiched by brothers. Sometimes that’s exactly how it felt. I was always trying to keep up with them – running and jumping and crashing my bike. Although the boys in Going For Broke aren’t actually based on my brothers, I’m sure I was drawing on those memories when I wrote it.

My older brother probably fed into this story in some specific ways as he was very keen on breaking a world record when he was very young. A few years ago, he finally managed it, in a crazy event called the Deca-Ironman Triathlon. He set a new record for the bike leg, which is 1800 km long. Although I have been known to do a triathlon or two in my time, I prefer more civilised distances, which can be completed in less than eight days, and which allow you to get a good night’s sleep.

What really got the story started, though, was an assembly I attended at my daughter’s primary school. I watched as kids went up to receive their merit awards for various good deeds and there was one Year 2 boy who had received his for ‘neat handwriting’. He didn’t seem that interested in his award, being distracted by a Year 7 boy standing behind him on the stage, who was clutching a large trophy he had won for BMX bike riding. I could almost see the thoughts running through the younger boy’s head as he eyed off the older boy’s shiny trophy. And thus the character of Nathan, who longs to do something ‘amazingly amazing’, was born. There are clear echoes of this scene in the first chapter of the book, although, as with everything, I added a strong dose of fiction for dramatic effect.

This book is noteworthy in that it marks my debut as an illustrator. A diagram I drew of the bike ramp the boys construct was deemed good enough to represent the work of a 10-year-old boy, and so made its way into the finished product. Ironically, after all the conversations I had with my editor about making the book ‘less dangerous’, this picture features a boy hurling himself off a rickety bike ramp without a helmet. I did not do this on purpose, I promise.