Home > Uncategorized > NZ Post Book Awards Non-Fiction Short List 2010

NZ Post Book Awards Non-Fiction Short List 2010

Ben & Mark. Boys of the High Country by Christine Fernyhough, Photos by John Bougen. Pub. Random House, 2009.

I wonder how many “townies” would know that a castrated lamb is called a whether or that Mt. White Station where this book is set, is as big as the city of Christchurch?

Christine Fernyhough tells the story of life on Mt White Station currently managed by Richard and Sheri Smith and their two boys Ben & Mark. The boys lifestyle, the lot of the domestic animals Dogs and horses, the muster(twice a year), the fun, friends, schooling and future of Mt White station and its inhabitants both human and animal, is simply described. Great reading it is too.

Christine Fernyhough was prompted to tell this story because of the lack of knowledge of High Country life by city children and a terrific job she does of it too.

John Bougen’s photographs are exceptional. They compliment the written text and show the drama and realities of the high country farming life. The panoramic photographs of the Mt White station are brilliant as well as those that show the animals, the various work huts and the lives of Ben & Mark.

Everybody should know of this life style. Once again an absolute must purchase for every school library.

Rangitoto Te toka tu moana. The rock standing in the ocean by Maria Gill . Illus. by Heather Arnold. Pub Puffin Books, 2009

A well compiled short book concerning the volcano that is Rangitoto island in the Hauraki Gulf.

The opening pages are from Kaka parrots watching the birth of Rangitoto 600 years ago from under the sea. Then follows a simply told story for younger readers of the history of the eruption and the way the volcano is today.

Each double page has illustrations or maps covering both pages.

On the left side there are Hot Facts concerning the eruption, how volcanoes occur, the greening of Rangitoto, bird life, historical facts, future facts and Maori Folk Lore.

The right hand side explains all the terms used,  gives a timeline and explains additional information.

The illustrations by Heather Arnold are a combination of p-hotographs and acrylic paintings that have been layered together. The effect is outstanding, especially the birdlife.

Illustrations and word text work well together and in such a short book a Contents page and an Index are hardly necessary.

A very useful book for any school library especially Auckland schools doing local history and vulcanism. We need more titles of this ilk for our school libraries.

The South Island and it’s volcanic history do not get a mention and I am sure the volcanoes that became Banks Peninsular were a significant event. Non-the-less it is a worthy entry.

E3 Call Home by Janet Hunt. Pub. Random House, 2009

A true story of two Godwits, one male (E3), one female (E7) that both do that phenomenal 30,000Km round trip from New Zealand to Alaska and back.

The research that allowed Janet Hunt to write this book emanated from concerns over the birdflu virus H1N5 and the fear that migrating birds may carry and spread this disease.

The first part of the book concerns E3 who has a transmitter fitted to his back that can be tracked by satellite. This bird takes an unexpected route then goes missing. Read the book to see what happened.

The story of female godwit E7 who flew non stop for 11,700Km and became an Internet star, is the second part.

Fascinating facts about bird migration, about the destruction of their habitat and the life style of these fantastic godwits makes for riveting reading.

Different sized fonts, simple maps and illustartions plus great photographs make this a very compact package for the study of bird migration.

In the back are a list of web sites for additional information and there is an Index.

Altogether an essential purchase for school libraries and a deserving entrant in this years awards.


Dear Alison. A New Zealand Soldier’s Story from Stalag 383. Edited by Simon Pollard. Pub. Penguin Books , 2009

This is a story that you will never forget and should by often told.

It is a diary written by Dudley Roberts Muff to his niece Alison who was four years old at the time, with an historical overview of Dudley’s army career with 20th Battalion of the 4th Brigade of the 2nd NZ Expeditionary Force during World War 2.

These were the guys that fought on Greece, were evacuated to Crete where the fighting was fierce and many including Dudley were taken prisoner on April 26th 1941. Dudley Roberts Muff spent the rest of the war in several prisoner of war camps but mostly at Stalag 383 near the Austrian Alps.

Stalag 383 was an NCO’s prisoner of war camp and the men did not have to work, so they became inventive, to make their lives interesting and to keep moral up. The diary to Alison is full of information about the daily routine of camp life and in typical Kiwi style he understates the hardships of the life he and his comrades lived until their release in May 1945.

A very believable and courageous story told by a very literate man. Dudley Roberts Muff was a Librarian and a scholar before the war and his writing reflects his status.

What uplifts this true story to greatness is the illustrations of the camp and of the activities of the prisoners and of their German guards. Characters Dudley Muff called his “little men”.

This is a brilliant story for everyone. My early favourite to win the big one. Don’t miss it.

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