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Home from the Homer by Anya Forest

May 23, 2019 Comments off

home homerHome from the Homer by Anya Forest. Pub. Anya Forest 2018.

The magnificent cover of this novel showing the Haast Eagle, the Fiordland Moose and the Homer Tunnel puts you right in the heart of this novel before you have turned a page.

For those of you who do not know New Zealand and even those who do, will be blown away by the Fiordland setting of this story.

Zoe and Seth are 12 year old twins and quite different from each other. They go with their parents on a holiday to Fiordland passing through the Homer tunnel on their way to Milford Sound. The area has magnificent scenery, it rains heavily and it has a mysterious past with some of the animals that inhabited this area but are now extinct. In this novel they all come alive.

When the family pass through the Homer Tunnel they know things are not quite right, and as they exit they look back and the tunnel is gone. They have slipped into another time zone before the tunnel was built and they meet characters famous in the history of fiordland like John Christie the chief surveyor of the Homer tunnel project in the 1930’s.

Both Seth and Zoe get separated in different time zones going back to the 19th century and have their own adventures which are going to impact on their lives after they return to the present. Read it and see who else they meet.

I loved their encounters with the Haast Eagle, the Fiordland moose, the Kakapo, the Piopio and the lost Tribe but the bonus is the respectful and understanding relationships that they have with the people they meet.

There are historical photographs and drawings of some extinct animals and of the pioneers of the region.

Further contact to anyaforest@xtra.co.nz

Chinatown Girl by Eva Wong Ng.

February 7, 2019 Comments off

chinatown girlChinatown Girl by Eva Wong Ng. Pub. Scholastic, 2019.

This is a reissue of the My New Zealand Story title first published in 2005 but in response to the fact that there were now 171, 000 Chinese New Zealanders according to the 2013 census, reissued again.

Everybody should know what it was like to be Chinese in New Zealand and we didn’t make it easy for them. Chinese were known as the Yellow Peril and we made it as difficult as possible for them to come and settle here. The Immigration Restriction Act of 1908 put a bond of 100 pounds on any Chinese coming to this country(more than the average Kiwi earned in a year).

This story in diary form set in Greys Avenue Auckland (Chinatown) in the year 1942 when the threat from Japan was at it’s height, is told by 12 year old Sylvey Chan. It tells of the Chinese experience and will be of great interest to new immigrants to this country and to everyone else as well.

I think it is fabulous and is full of wartime history of rationing, of the blackout and the “loose lips sink ships” catch cry that dominate local thinking. Sylvie rides down Queen street on a push bike at night when the blackout is in force, visits an opium den, is visited by American Chinese soldiers after the fall of Singapore and the Battle of the Coral Sea. It also features¬† her life at Beresford street School and at Chinese School.

The book is full of Chinese wisdom of Confucius such as “when you go to other peoples places never go with only air in your hands”. Many Chinese became vegetable growers because it is what they knew from home and if the business failed you still had something to eat.

Absolutely fascinating. Well written and historically accurate. If you miss this you will kick yourself. For primary, intermediate and secondary school pupils.

Athena. The Story of a Goddess by Imogen and Isabel Greenberg.

August 25, 2018 Comments off

AthenaAthena. The Story of a Goddess by Imogen and Isabel Greenberg. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2018.

The Greek legends were the true beginning of Western storytelling and literature but always the complication was, who was what god or goddess and how were they related.

Athena who was to become Goddess of wisdom, war and courage was born from one of her father Zeus’s headaches. Her sister was the Goddess of love Aphrodite, her stepmother was the wife of Zeus, Hera and she had great competition with her uncle, Poseidon, God of the sea.

Athena loved to interfere in the lives of the mortals on Earth and this book recounts some of those famous stories that we all know. The story of the Trojan Wars and Helen of Troy and the subsequent 20 year journey of Odysseus which was part of Athena’s battle with Poseidon. Then there is the story of Arachne. Guess what Athena turned her into?

This is a picture book size work of brilliance. Text has handwritten font and the illustrations are classic. Greek Legends don’t get better than this.

Aimed at the junior and intermediate reader but well worth a look from older readers.

Finding by David Hill.

April 22, 2018 Comments off

findingFinding by David Hill. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2018.

This is the New Zealand story in my opinion. I hope David Hill got as much satisfaction writing it as I got reading it.

It is the story of two family trees, one Scottish who settled in the Waimoana river valley  in the 1880s and the other Maori who were already living in the Pa by the river and without whom the Scottish family could not have survived. It is the story of early New Zealand settlement that has been largely overlooked.

The story then tells of 7 generations who lived, loved and developed the land in the valley. They intermarried and were as close to each other as it is possible to be.

One of the descendants named Alan Hohepa sums it up when describing himself “I,m Pakeha and I’m Maori and I’m Ok being both”. Recognition of the need to keep the Maori language alive was firm with Maori and Pakeha characters alike.

The story takes us from the 1880’s through landmarks in New Zealand’s history until 2018 when the current residents of the Waimoana valley are considering whether to sell up and move to the city. You will have to read the novel to find out the decision.

This is the way race relations is supposed to be and it brought joy to my soul. The ending is both apprehensive and hopeful but who doesn’t feel like that these days.

Things I loved about this book include:- I loved the way the Maori reacted when the bagpipes are played – like a screaming Taniwha. I loved the way the treasures of the silver bracelet and the greenstone bat were handed down through the generations. I loved all the characters who had a respect for each other and the land they lived on.

I loved the way the love of the land is not all one sided. I loved how the stories of the past were held dear by successive generations whose family trees are drawn in the front of the novel for you to refer to, and I loved the Waimoana river and it’s valley which is a character in it’s own right and whose map is at the start of the book.

Splendid writing by David Hill in his easy style and the art work on the cover and at the beginning of each generational chapter is superb.

For everybody really but excellent for intermediate and high school readers.

ANZAC Animals by Maria Gill, illus. Marco Ivancic.

April 17, 2018 Comments off

ANZAC AnimalsANZAC Animals by Maria Gill, illus. Marco Ivancic. Pub. Scholastic, 2018.

This inspirational, carefully researched and brilliantly illustrated story of animals who had an impact during the 1st and 2nd World Wars is a timely reminder of how war affected peoples lives with ANZAC Day just over a week away.

Many animals went to war, many are known about, particularly dogs, horses, mules and donkeys with an estimated 1 million dogs and 8 million horses, donkeys and mules killed in WW1. Many of their stories are in this fine publication but many other animals were also and remarkably involved.

Kangaroos, Torty the tortoise, Monkeys and cats were often mascots or companions and then there is Lulu the chicken. Read her story it is amazing. Pigeons were often used when other communication sources were out of action or inappropriate. In fact pigeons were awarded the Victoria Cross. Don’t believe me? Read this book and find out.

Marco Ivancic’s illustrations give life and drama to the text and original photographs and maps of battle scenarios increase the knowledge of past wars.

Kids love animals and this publication is a great way to get them involved in history.

A Story of the Undead,the Unexpected and the Not Unfunny by Andrew Hansen illus. Jessica Roberts

April 16, 2018 Comments off

undeadA Story of the Undead,the Unexpected and the Not Unfunny by Andrew Hansen illus. Jessica Roberts. Pub. Walker Books, 2018.

I love silly stories especially when they tamper with history and are clever about it. This one tells alternative facts about Ancient Egypt that will make junior and intermediate students laugh and adults to smile knowingly.

Bab is a clever boy, so clever that his teachers expel him from school because he is brighter than they are. His parents are delighted because they are professors of Egyptology and they can now go in search of a famous chin beard that has been worn by the Pharaohs and is now missing.

The beard has a dark magical power and when one Pharaoh dies it searches for the cleverest person around, attaches itself to his or her chin and that person becomes Pharaoh.

You’ve guessed it. When Bab’s parents are out searching for the beard, the beard finds Bab and attaches to his chin. An Ibis and a walking fish take Bab to the ancient city of Mumphis where Jackals are banned an becomes Pharaoh.

But a super bad Jackal named Cainus has a mission to steal the beard and resurrect his former master the Unpharaoh. But first he must get past Bab.

Very funny in a clever way with excellent pen and ink illustrations from Jessica Roberts.

Lyla by Fleur Beale

March 20, 2018 Comments off

LylaLyla by Fleur Beale. Pub. Allen&Unwin, 2018.

I read this novel about the Christchurch earthquake in one sitting and at the end I was grinding my teeth like I did during the real event waiting for the next aftershock, because this is the way it was.

Lyla is a thirteen year old Avonside Girls high student who was with her friends in Cashel Mall when the big one struck. She describes the horror and pandemonium of the event, loses touch with her friends and parents and walks through the wreckage and carnage of a destroyed city to her home in Dallington.

Her home is a wreck, her elderly and young neighbours are dazed and confused but she organises food and bedding for them and her home becomes a refuge in the liquifaction horror all around her.

She has to contend with young children and a boy her age who has proved difficult in the past. She toils through it all as the 14,000 or so aftershocks rip the heart out of the morale of the citizens of Christchurch.

You will not read a better book about the earthquake than this.

For everybody.