Home > Historical Fiction, Intermediate Fiction, Senior Fiction > My NZ Story; Quarantine by Philippa Werry. Pub. Scholastic, 2022

My NZ Story; Quarantine by Philippa Werry. Pub. Scholastic, 2022

March 17, 2022

This is a well told moving story about a Wellington family and their friends during the 1937/37 “infantile paralysis” or polio pandemic which showed many of the same characteristics that the Covid pandemic has in today’s world.

Polio came from nowhere and the medical profession was flummoxed as to it’s cause and how to stop it. They realised that it was a virus but no vaccine was found until the 1950,s and not used in NZ until 1956. Like Covid the community reacted in different ways. Schools were locked down particularly for children as they seemed to be the target for the polio virus. There was even a conspiracy theory that milk was the cause and should be boiled before use. This was refuted of course and in 1937 the school milk programe was introduced by the first labour govt.

Twelve year old Tom narrates this story. He belongs to a family with five children, 3 girls and two boys and he is the second oldest. His father is a working man and although it is the Depression holds down a job at the newly opened Ford motor Coy in Petone. His mother is a hymn singing stern hardworking Welsh woman who cares for her children and there is not much money around.

This portrait of a family life during the depression is a highlight as is the school life of Tom and his friends. Tom is a big fan of Olympic gold medalist Jack Lovelock and actually meets him running at the beach. Tom begins to run himself. His sisters Flo aged 10 and Lily aged 14 are into films of Shirley Temple etc.

Foer me the character that I loved was Mr Moffat a teacher at Tom’s school. he is a great teacher, strong disciplinarian, strict but fair and the children new where they stood with him.

When one of Tom’s family gets “infantile Paralysis” and you will have to read the book to find out which one, everything in his family changes.

In the back is a historical note and photographs of polio treatment and even the first Iron lung. Fascinating.

A stirring story with some sad moments but also some joyous ones. Terrific writing from Philippa Werry who knows her history and never disappoints. Her portrayal of family life in the 1930,s is a great contrast to life now and in many ways I preferred it. One of the best books in this series.

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