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Archive for the ‘Historical Fiction’ Category

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.

Kiwis at War: 1918, Broken Poppies by Des Hunt.

March 18, 2018 Comments off

broken poppiesKiwis at War: 1918, Broken Poppies by Des Hunt. Pub. Scholastic, 2018.

The final part of the Kiwis at War series is as good as all the others with an emphasis on the final battles of the war including Passchendaele, the German push after the deal with the Russians and the Armistice.

Des Hunt has focused on some of the more humane aspects of the conflict that were so easily overshadowed by the horrors of battle, the incompetent decision making and lack of compassion shown by the masters and officers who directed the war. The ordinary soldier was treated like truck loads of sheep going to the slaughter house.

There is war horror in this novel too, the rain, the mud, the trench rot, the fear, the shell shock, the noise, the bombs, the mangled bodies and minds and the killing.

It is the fate of a little fox terrier named Poppy who was lost by a little French girl called Zoe as she and her family were retreating from a German advance that is at the crux of the novel. Found by Henry Hunt a relative of the author, Poppy’s adventures will send chills up your backbone and bring you to tears of happiness.

Narrated in chronological countdown till the end of the war from August 1917 to November 1918, there is also a few photographs in the back plus a timeline and glossary.

Don’t miss this one and read the whole series also reviewed on this blog. For readers from intermediate age through to young adults. Des hunt knows how to tell a story.

Dawn Raid by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith.

March 13, 2018 Comments off

dawn raidDawn Raid by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith. Pub. Scholastic, 2018

This most impressive novel is part of the My New Zealand Story series and concerns the Dawn Raids on Pacific Islanders during 1976 on the orders of the Muldoon Government. never has new Zealand got closer to being a police state than during these years of the seventies.

Thirteen year old Sofia Christina Savea keeps a diary from June till November 1976 and documents family life of the time plus the slow politicising of the Pacific Island community brought about by the racist acts of the police in chasing up overstayers in New Zealand.

The best part of the novel is Sofia’s home life, her life at school and her quest to earn money on a milk round to pay for some impressive go go, leather, knee high boots. The role of her mother father and siblings is superb.

Sofia has a talent at public speaking and has entered a competition. She is struggling for a topic until on a visit to Auckland for a family reunion they are dobbed in by a neighbour and the police dawn raid their property at 4.00am in the morning.

Lots of great writing and memories in this novel, in fact one of the best in this series.

How To Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather.

January 18, 2018 Comments off

hang witchHow To Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather. Pub. Walker books, 2018.

The Salem witch trials of 1691 make some of the most sordid reading in American history. Cotton Mather was a leading instigator in these trials, this novel is written by a descendant Adriana Mather and the main character in the novel is teenage girl Samantha Mather. It’s a family affair.

Samantha and her step mother Vivian sell their New York apartment to pay the medical expenses of Samantha’s father who has mysteriously gone into a coma. They move to Salem and stay in a house once owned by Samantha’s grandma that she didn’t know about.

Samantha is a difficult girl she has an affinity for sarcasm and doesn’t have any friends. Why is this? Her first day in the old house results in mysterious happenings, secret rooms, things that go bump in the night.

Her first day at Salem high school is no better, she makes enemies of a group of black clad girls called the Descendants who are related to the witches of 1691. They threaten her and say she is cursed. Then Samantha meets handsome boy Elijah who is a ghost and only she can see and hear him. He tells her to leave or else, but Samantha is built of sterner stuff and is not intimidated by the threats. She should be. Elijah tells her that when one of each of the main families involved in the original trials is in Salem a curse is invoked and the death rate mounts. Can the curse be broken?

A fascinating read that sheds light on the Salem trials and likens them to modern day bullying. Not a lot of laughs in this novel that has the power to scare the s**t out of you but fortunately there is a touch of romance to lighten the mood.

Superbly written and structured in 47 short sharp chapters so that you can read it in short bursts like I did. Senior secondary but I suspect younger readers will clamber to read it as well. It will do them no harm.