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Keyword: ‘Into the River’

A Doubtful Detour by Anya Forest. Pub. www.anyaforest.com

March 1, 2021 Comments off

This historical time travel novel took me a while to read because of the amazing detail it gives about life in the Fiordland National park during the 1920,s and 1960’s. Fiordland is the major character in this novel with it’s mountains, fiords, rivers, waterfalls, dense bush, rain and unique animal life.

This is a sequel to the novel Home from the Homer also reviewed on this blog, and features 13 year old twins Seth and Zoe and their parents who travel south of the Homer to Doubtful Sound and Deep Cove. As with the earlier novel they slip into different time zones and experience life in the raw in the early days.

Seth slips into the 1920’s when tourism was starting to develop in Fiordland as is hunting. He meets several famous characters particularly Leslie Murrell a hunter and tourist developer of the 1920’s and Vivian Donald who had a company that developed the first woolpress in NZ. Seth accompanies them on a hunting and sailing trip that takes him down Doubtful sound to the ocean and trips to Dusky sound and the Puysegur Point lighthouse which was built in 1879 and burnt to the ground in 1942. He travels on a famous boat the Constance and takes part on the first licensed hunting for wapiti trip in 1923. he also comes across a whale and the rareTawaki or Firodland crested penguin.

Zoe has a totally different trip in Doubtful Sound and West Arm where the Manapouri Power Station was being built. Her main companion there was Sister Josie a nurse on board the Wanganella passenger ship that was home to over 400 men who built the Manapouri complex. The Wanganella had a gymnasium and a cinema for over 400 men when spitting on the deck meant you were fired. She travels inside Machine Hall a huge place carved into the rock that house all the turbines that made the power from the Manapouri scheme.

There are many tales like this in this novel and all are accompanied by superb photographs and documents of the times. The characters, the transport, the wildlife and the landscape and seascape of the wonder that is fiordland.

I can say no more find out the rest for yourself you will not be disappointed. Of course there is the mystery of the time travel and whether or not the family will find each other again.

In The City. A look anfd Find Story by Holly James, illus. Hannah Tolson.

July 1, 2020 Comments off

in the cityIn The City. A look and Find Story by Holly James, illus. Hannah Tolson. Pub. Bloomsbury, 2020.

Cities are not all the same but they do perform the same functions everywhere they exist. This look and find picture book for juniors shows the various functions of any city and allows children time to explore and look for things that happen in the city.

Oscar and Lucy travel into the city by train from the suburbs and use a map to seek things out. They see the traffic, they visit a museum, they note the number and variety of vehicles on the streets, they climb up a sky scraper, visit a park for a picnic, cruise on the river, go shopping, take a bus tour and off home.

The things they see are highlighted  and listed at the back of the book.

Excellent illustrations in bold colours and I suspect that the city shown is London but it could be new York, Tokyo Paris. The figures in the illustrations are multi cultural.

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Rocking Horse Road by Carl Nixon

December 20, 2019 Comments off

rockinghorseRocking Horse Road by Carl Nixon. Pub. Random House, 2007.

I missed this excellent novel about teenagers growing up in Christchurch New Zealand in the 1980’s.

It attracted my attention because I live on the coastal East side of Christchurch and I intimately know the Rocking Horse Road area of South New Brighton. It is a long beach finger, between the ocean and the estuary of the Avon and Heathcote rivers.

One morning in the hot summer of 1980 the body of 16 year old Lucy Asher is found at the high tide area of South Brighton beach. She had been sexually assaulted and murdered. She is found by Pete Marshall who is a year younger than Lucy and the consequences of Lucy’s death will affect him and his mates for the rest of their lives.

The police investigation into Lucy’s murder does not result in a culprit being caught so the boys(one of them narrates the story), conduct their own investigation until well into their 40’s. It dominates their lives, but will they solve the case?

At the same time the 1981 Springbok Rugby Tour of New Zealand takes place, a tour that divided the country and resulted in some appalling behaviour from both sides of the argument. The boys are caught up in this as well.

It is a loss of innocence story both for the teenage boys and the country. Neither will be the same again. The environment of the estuary and beach is a huge part of the appeal of this novel. If you live in New Brighton you will love it.

Powerfully written by Carl Nixon. Once you start you won’t put it down. For young adult and adult readers.

 

 

Wildlife of Aotearoa by Gavin Bishop

September 27, 2019 Comments off

wildlifeWildlife of Aotearoa by Gavin Bishop. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2019.

Gavin Bishop describes this fully comprehensive, large picture book sized, encounter with New Zealand’s amazing array of wildlife, as a “leap into the unknown”. Well it is known now thanks to him, in the best non fiction work I have read this year and one of the best ever.

Superbly illustrated with a Maori component and a strong emphasis on conservation and the future.

It begins and ends with a giant squid and it’s famous eye, on the front and back inside covers. Then comes god of the sea Tangaroa and five long-finned eel larvae who begin their journey through the multiple environments of Aotearoa.

The whales, fish, dolphins and sea life of the oceans around New Zealand are first followed by the bird life and we learn that a third of these birds are endangered and that Shag droppings have killed all the trees on Whero Island in Foveaux strait.

The 15,000 kilometers of life on the shoreline is followed by wetlands, Estuaries and rivers and we learn that the Lug worm leaves decorative castes on the sand and is frequently used by fishermen as bait.

Effects of Polynesian settlement is next with the introduction of rats, pigs chickens and dogs of which only the dogs and rats survived. Life above and below the tree-line follows then European settlement which continued the clearance of native bush started by the Maori till now when only 20% remains.

Domesticated wildlife such as cattle, sheep pigs and deer are covered and their effect on native species,as is wildlife in the towns and cities and in the house.

This superb work ends with safe places for wildlife in the sea and on the land. Outstanding drawings and illustrations with a Maori context throughout.

A phenominal piece of work for everyone. essential purchase for all schools and there is a place in the home for it too.

DRY by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman.

October 14, 2018 Comments off

dryDRY by Neal Shusterman & Jarrod Shusterman. Pub. Walker Books, 2018.

One of the most readible, action packed and futuristic novels I have read for some time. It is about survival when the water runs dry and human beings have a melt down causing the total disintegration of society.

William Golding in Lord of the Flies wrote about the thin veneer of civilisation that covers mankind and how quickly it erodes under pressure. When the Governor of Arizona cuts the flow of the Colorado river into Southern California and stops the water supply to everybody, all hell breaks loose.

Teenager Alyssa and her younger brother Garrett are as under prepared as everybody. When their parents go missing while looking for water they team up reluctantly with the boy next door, Kelton whose father has prepared for this moment all of his life. Kelton has too and he is one tough customer.

As rioting and looting pervade in every community, it becomes dog eat dog with people doing anything for water. The kids meet up with a street wise hell cat Jacqui and a mercenary capitalist, Henry, who sees opportunity for money in the whole scenario and would sell his grandmother if there was a profit in it. The snappy dialogue between the characters excels when Henry is on board.

The group travel through the wasteland of bone dry, lawless, California as authorities grapple with the catastrophe that is around them. For the group tomorrow has to wait a while and yesterday is irrelevant. Survival is the only game in town.

I couldn’t put it down. Brilliantly written and conceived. Totally believable. Miss this and you will kick yourself. For teenagers and young adults.

Brotherband Bk 7: The Caldera by John Flanagan.

November 17, 2017 Comments off

calderaBrotherband Bk 7: The Caldera by John Flanagan. Pub.Penguin Random House, 2017.

Hal, Stig, Ulf and Wulf, Lydia, Thorn and dog Kloof are a Brotherband in the Skandian culture and they sail a technically superior viking ship, the Heron, due to a movable boom sail rig invented by Hal the Skirl or captain. They take on dangerous missions all over the Skandian world and such is their team work and skill that they are always successful.

When Stig’s father Olaf turns up after deserting his family and crew 20 years previously a new adventure begins. Olaf has work as chief palace guard for the Empress of Constanta a city identical to the modern day Istanbul. The Empress is Regent to her young son who has been kidnapped by to true baddy with the name Myrgos.

Myrgos has a fortress in a caldera of a volcano which has opened to the sea and his fortress is at the top of a cliff overlooking the caldera.

Hal and his crew are asked by Olaf to rescue the Empress’s son and clear his name at the same time. But all is not as it seems. Read it and enjoy the action, it is outstanding and compulsive reading.

Told in the same easy style of previous Brotherband books and you do not have to have read the earlier novels to know what is going on. John Flanagan neatly brings you up to scratch in Part 1 of the novel and then you are straight into the action against the villain Myrgos and the river pirates of the Dan river.

Lots of sailing talk and sea and river battles that are brilliantly described. I was disturbed when Lydia the only female member of Hal’s crew was wounded in the first battle of the novel but I knew she would get up again.

For intermediate and junior secondary readers but I am sure older and younger confident readers will easily cope with this novel. Leadership is a constant theme of this series, what does it take to be a leader?

Reluctant boys – this is for you.

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee.

July 21, 2015 Comments off

watchmanGo Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. Pub. William Heinemann: London 2015.

I just had to read this novel and put in my 2 bobs worth because To kill A Mockingbird was one of my favourite childhood novels and because early publicity about this novel suggested Atticus Finch was a racist. Bullshit!!!

Atticus Finch is now 72 years old and suffers from arthritis. He still lives in Maycomb Junction with his sister Alexandra who is a real star of this novel. He practices law as he always will, sits on the town council and still upholds justice. He can still hold an argument, stand up for his principles and has  a sharp sense of humour. When Scout or Jean Louise is found to have swum in the river with her intended Henry and it is suspected that it was in the nude, Atticus retorts “I hope she wasn’t swimming on her back”.

Jean Louise now 26 years, returns on holiday after living 2 years in New York where life is open and things that would horrify citizens of Maycomb, go unnoticed. Jean Louise has put Atticus up on a pedestal because of her childhood and the only place for him to go is down.

The world is changing for race relationships in America with the Civil Rights Movement taking off faster in some areas than it is in the South. Jean Louise attends a Council meeting chaired by Atticus and her intended Henry and a rank redneck speaker charges against desegregation and talks nigger this and nigger that. Jean Louise is physically sick.

Confrontation between Jean Louise and Atticus is inevitable and as Atticus would say absolutely necessary. He has brought Scout up to be her own person and that she surely is. Their confrontation is stunning, an inter-generation barney that is unforgettable and one that lifts this novel from more than a sequel to Mockingbird and into a stand alone classic on it’s own.

Bob Dylan a decade later wrote”get out of the new world if you can’t then you’re damned cos the times they are a’changing”. Not everyone moves at the same pace with Maycomb and old age being well behind New York and youth. but it is the words of Atticus that define this novel for me “Hypocrites have just as much right to live in this world as anybody”. Go ahead cast the first stone.

Don’t miss this book.

Evie’s War by Anna Mackenzie.

July 9, 2015 Comments off

evie's warEvie’s War by Anna Mackenzie. pub.Longacre, 2015.

This excellent novel about a New Zealand girl’s experiences in World War 1 can only be described as epic.

Written by Anna Mackenzie while in residency in Belgium by Passa Porta, International literary School.By her own admission she became engrossed and immersed in World War 1 to the point of obsession. I am glad she did because this novel is one incredible account of the Great War and of English Society.

Evie is 18 when she and her parents and older brother Edmund take a passage to UK with the intention of touring Europe. The shot that rang around the World changed all that and the family found themselves living with her aunt in circumstances that can only be described as Edwardian upper class with values akin to those of the characters in a Jane Austen novel.

Evie mixes with the English young ladies who describe her as having “colonial outspokenness”. She can do things that polite young ladies of status don’t do. In many ways it is  Downton Abbey palaver with war an unwanted guest at the table.

Evie wants to do her bit and gets involved as a nurse treating the hordes of young men with their horrendous wounds while the newspapers are full of the glories of battle. To talk the truth is a total social no no with the only evidence of what is happening in the casualty  lists in the papers.

Evie is courted by a wounded officer and in spite of the raw reality all around them the relationship is totally innocent and refreshingly naive.

Each year of the war from 1914 through to 1918 is depicted in diary entries from Evie’s journal. Historical facts are included in the diary entries and changes in society and perceptions of the war change. Edmund goes to war and what an intrepid tale his is.

Evie herself goes to Belgium as a driver and nurse for the whole of 1918 and the true horrors of this war are portrayed through the men she treats in the most primitive of conditions.

Superbly described by Anna Mackenzie. How about this- Evie’s piano playing is described as being like a “farmhand clumping over a cow paddock in hefty boots”. her wit is also evident when Evie is asked if the cannibals still ate human flesh “only on Sundays it is a delicacy”

Anna Mackenzie has clearly put her heart and soul into this novel and I think it is her best. So far!

Middle School: Save Rafe by James Patterson Illus. Chris Tebbetts.

June 17, 2015 Comments off

save rafeMiddle School: Save Rafe by James Patterson Illus. Chris Tebbetts. Pub.Random House, 2014.

This is the 6th book in this very good series for reluctant readers particularly boys but not exclusively so. The main character in this novel is Rafe Khatchadorian who lives with his artist mother and younger sister.

Rafe has an attitude problem because he likes to break rules and gets into heaps of trouble. He finds it difficult to talk to girls but is a gifted cartoonist writing a series of comic books about Loozer the loser which is really about himself. The cartoons are spaced throughout the book reflecting the action that has or is to take place.

Rafe was expelled from his last school and before his new school will accept him he has to pass a two week outward bound type school with 7 other kids including 3 girls. It is not easy but they will learn how to conquer their fears, work together and learn to trust themselves. Not everybody will pass.

At the end they have to write a letter to themselves saying where they would like to be in a years time.

Good values and a lively plot as the 8 kids make their own raft to sail down a river, climb a cliff and survive by not hurting the environment.

Easy to read with frequent cartoon breaks that advance or comment on what has occurred.

Valuable for ages 9 through to 13 years.

Dragon Knight by Kyle Mewburn & Donovan Bixley.

March 17, 2015 Comments off

dragon knightDragon Knight by Kyle Mewburn & Donovan Bixley. Pub. Scholastic, 2015.

When I read this short easy to read novel with illustrations that are designed for maximum fun I thought, great, a book that reluctant readers or slow readers at primary level can have fun devouring, especially boys.

Kyle Mewburn provides a written text that is perfect for fun. Ogres that fart, shape changers that are human and dragons at the same time, villains that deserve to be beaten and a hero that doesn’t win all t6he time but impresses with his bravery and fair play.

Merek is a boy who can shape shift into a dragon and other creatures, his parents can also do this. he wants to become a knight but isn’t confident about it. The rogue of the novel is  a beastly boy called Percy Crumble and there is a girl posing as a boy.

At the beginning of this Medieval fantasy there is a map of the village and castle where Merek and his family live. It has places named The Fruit and Nut Black forest, Grist’s Mill and the Route Canal. Great fun for adults too, many will remember the River Phoenix.

Donovan Bixley shows his immense talent and great versatility with the illustrations which are superb black and white drawings. I hope this becomes a series like their earlier effort Dinosaur Rescue.

Lets get those reluctant boys reading. This book is a great start.