Posts Tagged ‘Individualism’

South Sea Vagabonds by J.W. Wray.

August 24, 2017 Comments off

south sea vagabondsSouth Sea Vagabonds by J.W. Wray. Pub. HarperCollins, 2014.

This remarkable story is a New Zealand classic that was first published in 1939. Every sailor worth his weight in salt water would have read this story and I guess every Aucklander with a boat will have heard of the yacht Ngataki and the legends that went with it.

Johnny Wray lost his job in the Depression because he was a day dreamer. He dreamt of palm-clad atolls with white sand and sailing in the warm trade winds.

He decided to pursue his dream and scrounged around the beaches in the Auckland area for logs of kauri to build a yacht. How he does this in his own backyard with little money and no training in boat building, makes fascinating reading. He does it somehow with friends and an insight possessed by few people. The result was the very sturdy Ngataki a 35 ft sloop with a 12 ft beam. The launch is hilarious.

The first voyage with a dunger of an engine called Methuselah, a chronometer and compass that didn’t work, and a sextant that took some working out, is astonishing, but they found Sunday Island where the best oranges in the world grow. A race across the Tasman to Melbourne followed and Johnny Wray was hooked for life.

Told in laconic style, with a good deal of understatement and self deprecation and the number 8 fencing wire theory as a guide, Johnny Wray travels the South Sea Islands from Tonga to Tahiti. The environment is pristine, you could see the bottom of the ocean from 20 fathoms and there were fish galore. It’s all gone now of course as man has plundered the planet.

You can read about the ship board rat Herbert, hear told of a fight between a giant squid and a whale and first hand account of sailing through a hurricane. You will be spellbound.

Johnny Wray trusted the Ngataki he built and approached sailing with this philosophy -“there is something exhilarating in a clean fight with the elements – as long as you win”

I would have trusted the man with my life. I hope you can still get a copy.

Not if I See You First by Eric Lindstrom.

December 23, 2015 Comments off

not see you firstNot if I See You First by Eric Lindstrom. Pub. HarperCollins, 2015.

Parker Grant is nearly 16 years old and was blinded at age 7 years in a car accident that killed her mother. At 15 years old she found her father dead in bed and now she lives in the family home with her aunt Celia and two cousins.

When Parker was 13 years she began a kissing relationship with Scott, a boy she had known for ever but  an incident destroyed the relationship and neither of them has gotten over it. 2 years later the two high schools in the town in which Parker lives, merge, throwing Scott and Parker back into each others company. if you want to know what happens you will have to read the novel and let me tell you, you will not regret it.

Parker is very testy. She copes brilliantly with her blindness, is very independent but resents being treated as the blind girl. She runs alone every morning, having counted steps and distance not only in her home but to and from school and even to the mall. Her personality is sharp and edgy to the astonishment and often resentment to those around her.

Parker needs to change and she needs to get over the death of her father and her once relationship with Scott. She needs to grieve, she needs to forgive and in the words of Elsa and Anna she needs to Let it Go. This is what gives the novel power and momentum. The dialogue is real. witty, sharp, amusing and straight to the heart of the matter.

I liked Parker but boy I would never treat her like a blind person.

This is a school story and also a girly story. Eric Lindstrom has got the female relationships spot on. How a man did this so well has got me stunned, I would like to shake his hand and say “well done mate”. It’s the deep analysis that girls put into everything that fascinated me and I derived some insight from reading this book.

High school students will get into this novel especially girls but I can’t see the forwards from the First 15 from Boy’s High picking it up, although they should.

Being Magdalene by Fleur Beale.

August 22, 2015 Comments off

Being MagdaleneBeing Magdalene by Fleur Beale. Pub. Penguin Random House, 2015.

There needed to be a positive ending to this story of the Pilgrim Family that started with I am Not Esther and continued with I am Rebecca and this is it.

Caleb  and Naomi Pilgrim had 8 children and brought them up in the Children of the Faith religious Community headed by the despotic Elder Stephen. Their lives were dictated to by The Rule which Elder Stephen said was the word of god told through him. Chortle if you want.

The Rule rankled with all the Pilgrim children and divided their parents as it restricted freedom of choice and was an infringement on basic human rights particularly for girls and those who wanted to be educated. The Rule also proclaimed all who left the Faith to be dead and those who opposed the Rule would be damned and their mortal soul condemned in hell.

Needless to say the children were scared out of their wits but none more so than 12 year old Magdalene. She feels the pressure of the expulsion of brothe Daniel, sisters Miriam, Rebecca and cousin Esther real name Kirby. Now brothers Abraham and Luke are criticising The Rule but of greater concern is younger sister 7 year old Zillah who is a firebrand. Zillah says what she likes and tells Magdalene that she will run away and pleads for Magdalene to come with her. Will this happen? You will have to read the novel to find out.

Superbly written by Fleur Beale who keeps the tension on for the whole novel. Watching a family disintegrate is disturbing but the ending will bring tears to your eyes.

For readers of all ages from primary to high school. You will not forget this novel in a hurry. I do not often mention the cover of a novel but this one is superb.

Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine.

June 16, 2015 Comments off

fire colour oneFire Colour One by Jenny Valentine. Pub. HarperCollins, 2015.

This Guardian Prize winner 2015 for Young Adults is outstanding. It is a novel about art. Literally.

Iris is 14 years old and she has never consciously met her father who is now dieing of cancer. His name is Ernest and he has made a fortune dealing in art of all the great painters. Now on his death bed Ernest invites Iris, her mother Hannah and her partner Howell, to his estate for the last days.

There is a lot of time to make up and a lot of surprises.

The outstanding feature of the novel is the characterisations. Iris is very bright but she doesn’t look in the mirror and see somebody she doesn’t like. She is tomboyish and has a best friend in 17 year old Thurston. He has the imagination and character to be great he just doesn’t seem to want to be. He adores Iris.

The mother Hannah is a case. She has a fashion models body, dresses in tight clothes and high stilettos with a cigarette in one hand and clinking vodka and ice in the other. She is constantly dodging creditors with her maxed out credit cards. He partner Howell is a beauty. Film star looks with one eye in the mirror as he watches himself go by. He is on the fringes of Hollywood waiting for his big break but with Hannah behind him it will never come.

Iris is caught in the middle of it all and it is no surprise that she is a bit disturbed. She loves fires. Meeting her father and their conversations before he dies are sensational.

The language of the novel contains bitter sweet observations that will have you smiling with admiration. Howell for instance has toilet bowl white teeth.

The ending will have you on your feet applauding. The best book I have read this year.

Two Wolves by Tristan Bancks.

March 26, 2014 Comments off

two wolvesTwo Wolves by Tristan Bancks. Pub. Random House, 2014.

“Is it possible to outrun the blood you have inherited, to become somebody else?” This quote from the book is the theme to this exciting, thought provoking and stunning novel for high school students and young adults.

Ben is 13 years old with a love of film making and he wants to be a cop when he grows up. His father even calls him Cop. Olive his sister is 7 years old and is built of stern stuff too. Their mother is dominated by  their criminally minded father and one day a stroke of luck comes their way.

A bank error to the tune of $7.2 million dollars has the whole family on the run on outback Australia. Ben and Olivia know nothing of what is happening until an incident with a police patrol car has them fleeing like the devil himself was after them.

They hole up in a hut, tensions are high and Ben soon works out what has occurred. High drama begins and ends with a stunning father / son confrontation.

A million dollars can buy a lot of happy but is it worth it?  Everybody has a choice and Ben learns to exercise his.

A compulsive read that will keep the reader on edge. One of the best novels I have read this year.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Bk. 9 The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney

January 18, 2013 Comments off

third wheelThe Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney. Pub. Puffin Books, 2012.

If you don’t know about these books that have captured reluctant readers especially boys then you missed a terrific series of novels. This is book 9 and it is every bit as appealling as the others, in fact I enjoyed it more.

Greg Heffley aka the Wimpy kid wrestles with one of life’s great mysteries, girls. He learns that girls not only go to the bathroom in groups but they run their lives by a different set of rules than boys.

His 5th grade class are having a Valentines Day dance and Greg must find a girl to take. He tries very hard  and makes genuine efforts by his own standards and sense of humour but that is not good enough for girls.

He also gets involved with a School Student Council that wants to have the same soft toilet paper in the student toilets as the teachers do in the staffroom. Fat chance.

But the funniest stories are Greg’s memories in his mothers womb before he was born. No wonder he turned out like he did.

Just get it and read it. Jeff Kinney’s illustrations enhance his written text and I love his drawings of the girls.

Primary and intermediate in appeal but very good for slow or reluctant boy readers at any level.

Into the River by Ted Dawe

September 26, 2012 Comments off

Into the River by Ted Dawe, Pub. Mangakino University Press, 2012.

I think this is Ted Dawe’s best novel to date. It is a story that he needed to tell and it is enthralling from start to finish.

East Coast Maori boy Te Arepa is a talented boy. While eel fishing with his mate Wiremu he catches an enormous eel after a fierce struggle and ends up in the river with the eel. He learns from his grandfather Ra about the Rahui on the river and the significance it has to his tribe.

Te Arepa comes out the river a changed boy who feels the weight of his ancestry on him. He writes a poem that is to earn him a scholarship to a privileged boys boarding school in Auckland and this too changes his life.

At school all the meaningful things happen when the lights go out and Te Arepa is morphed into a boarding school boy the same as all the others. His Maoriness is belittled and his personality crushed. He is given the name Devon and he becomes Devon Santos after his Spanish ancestor Diego Santos.

What really changes Devon is the ease at which his cousin drives him to Auckland in the van. She is at one with the van, changes gears upward with her palm and downward with two fingers. The smoothness of it all impresses him.

Then his school friend Mitch gets a car, Devon gets promoted to a higher class and his relationship with a school friend Steph changes. It’s all on but you always have a choice.

Devon is later to become a major character in the boy racer culture book Thunder Road which was Dawe’s first major novel. This is great background to what makes Devon who he becomes.

As I said this book had to be written. It has strong boy appeal and cultural significance. One of the best books for teenagers I have read this year.

Flip by Martyn Bedford

January 17, 2012 Comments off

Flip by Martyn Bedford. Pub. Walker Books, 2011.

This would be the strangest book for teenagers I have read for some time but boy was it compelling reading. It will make you flip.

Alex wakes up after a night out with his mate and finds himself in a bedroom he doesn’t recognise. He looks in the mirror and it isn’t his face, he goes to the toilet and the crown jewels are not his, they are more impressive in fact. Yuk!!

He hears a female voice calling Philip down to breakfast and he quickly realises that he is Philip, well the body is Philip but his mind is Alex. What has happened?

First he has to negotiate the first day including school, Philip’s friends, classes, sister, girlfriends and parents. Philip is alien to Alex. What has happened to his own body?

Mentally he starts to fall apart. Philip is a sporty jock with limited intelligence and Alex is more cerebral preferring chess and academic performance.

Alex tries to contact his family in London but discovers something is wrong and suspects that his own body of Alex is  dead. He goes to London to see his family and I can tell you no more. Read it yourself.

Martyn Bedford makes you think. He touches on that important aspect of human existence, the soul. Can it be transferred from one person to another? Psychic evacuation he calls it. Terrific stuff. I loved this book.

Wonderful ending. Read it.

My Name is Mina by David Almond

October 9, 2010 Leave a comment

My Name is Mina by David Almond. Pub. Hodder Children’s Books, 2010.

This book is “bloody marvellous”. Better than a 4-4 draw between Newcastle and Sunderland.

I have read six David Almond books beginning with Skellig and they are works of art. This is a prequel to Skellig as it shows how Mina meets Michael before both of them meet Skellig.

Mina is a different girl. She questions everything in life, loves words and birds, but lacks an outlet for her individuality at the school she attends. “How can a bird that is born for joy, sit in a cage and sing?”

Her father died before she knew him, but she has memories and she misses his absence. Many of Almond’s characters have lost their father or are brought up by one parent.

Mina has a mother who is just brilliant. She sees that Mina is not right for the classroom and begins to home school her. The chapter where Mina writes a gibberish article for SATS day and leaves school, is hugely funny.

The real winner in this novel is the way David Almond’s uses words. He is creative and original and  by far the most lyrical  writer of children’s fiction I have read. There is not a word or a sentence out of place and everything seems so natural, like it is the way things are meant to be. You will be in awe at his brilliance which is told through an innocent yet worldly young girl called Mina who needs, by her own description  “destrangification”

This is for your gifted reader although anybody can read it. For me one of the best I have read this year.

Are These my basoomas I see before me? by Louise Rennison

Are these my Basoomas I see before me? by Louise Rennison. Pub. HarperCollins, 2009

This is the tenth and last book about the confessions of a pre teen girl, now a teenager, called Georgia Nicolson. They are told in diary form and began with the excellent Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging.

I asked myself when I picked up number 10, what has made these books so popular? After reading this I know why.

It is the humour. These books are hugely funny,silly and  perceptive. Try this for size from the book:- A boy turns up at a fancy dress party piggy backing his girlfriend. The host says “what have you come as?” Boy says “A tortoise” Host says ” who’s that girl on your back”? Boy says “Michelle”!!

What’s more these books  have a language of their own. (glossary in the back) Georgia combines school talk with German,  added on endings and with a street slang that is vair appealing. Vair is one of the big words of this book.

The plot is based around Georgia and her friends and their efforts to woo boys to be their “luurve gods”. It is about popularity and it’s fickleness. Popular one day, scheissenhausen the next.

The best thing about these books is their essential innocence even though they are dealing with the most basic of urges -sexual attraction. They are always centered around the school yard with innovative teachers and a Shakespearean play to perform, this time Romeo and Juliet or Rom & Jule as the kids call it.

Parents play a silly role but are always there when needed, which isn’t vair often.

Try any of Louise Rennison’s books on Georgia, you will have a laugh.

Essentially for Intermediate and Junior secondary students.