An historical picture book starting in Scotland in 1839 when a young printer James McPherson and his family catch a ship to New Zealand and start a newspaper that is to last until the Internet news makes it obsolete at the end of the first decade of the 21st Century.
The story is narrated by paperboy Matt McPherson a relative of the original settler and shows the same innovative thinking that his ancestor did.
Once the first journey to New Zealand and establishment is over eacy two page spread features a different aspect of New Zealand history from the land wars through World war 1 and up to the establishment of the Internet.
Bob Kerr’s comic book style cartoon illustrations tell a million other stories too and on all two page spreads their are newspaper articles that throw light on what was happening both historically and in the change of life style.
To link the pages and give the readers something extra there is a scottish tartan quilt or shawl hidden somewhere in the illustration. See if you can find them all. I still have one page to find it.
More effective than his previous historical picture book titled After the War. Mainly for primary and intermediate students but something there for the adults to muse over and to relive the passing days.
Essential for school libraries and for the coffee table. Critically a superb piece of work.
Aotearoa series Bk. 4 Justice and Utu by David Hair. Pub. HarperCollins, 2012.
Utu can be described as a combination of karma and an eye for an eye. It is both good and bad and boy are both side brought out in this exciting action packed novel. It is the fourth in the series that began with the Bone Tiki.
Matiu has developed powers since his Bone Tiki days and there are gateways between the spirit world of Aotearoa and the real world New Zealand.
When a witch named Donna Kyle is captured and put on trial in pre 1840’s New Zealand, Matiu’s father Tama is instructed to present her defence by Governor George Grey. Donna Kyle has been a fierce enemy of Matiu in the past but wants to redeem herself using Matiu and a clairvoyant pakeha girl called Evie whom she blinds in the opening chapter of the novel.
This fantasy novel takes the reader to the lawless world of the Bay of Islands and encounters real historical figures such as bully Hayes, Bishop Pompalier and Judge JS Williams who later sent the only woman sentenced to death in New Zealand, Minnie Deans, to the gallows.
Great action and fantasy in the Maori spirit world, a world uniquely of Aotearoa.
Will appeal to good intermediate readers but mostly to high school students.
When Empire Calls by Ken Catran. Pub. Scholastic, 2012.
Told from the point of view of James, a 15 year old farm boy who receives first hand accounts of Boer War action and tactics from his brother Edward who volunteered to go. Edward was caught up in the patriotic fervour that whipped through New Zealand in 1899. The wonderful British Empire must be saved from the wicked Boer.
Oh how untrue and hypocritical this patriotic propaganda was.
Firstly soldiers had to pay the equivalent of a years salary and provide their own horse. When they went to Africa they were forced to use scorched earth and genocide tactics to beat the Boers who employed guerilla like tactics. Internment camps for civilians were used for the first time.
Catran also skillfully portrays the growing New Zealand identity at the turn of the century which was to mature after Gallipolli and World War 1. Already there is racism as Maori were not allowed to go because the Boer was white. Can’t have brown fighting white, what!!
An excellent short novel for high school students. Cleverly written by an old master.
Shadow of the Boyd by Diana Menefy. Pub. HarperCollins, 2010.
The burning of the Boyd and massacre of it’s crew and passengers at Whangaroa Harbour in 1809 is one of the major clashes between Maori and Pakeha in the years before Waitangi, when New Zealand was a lawless society, although officially part of the colony of New South Wales.
Relations between the two cultures really depended on what had happened in the previous contact between Maori and Pakeha. The burning of the Boyd is seen in these terms by Diana Menefy in this fictional account. You will have to read this short novel to find out what the misunderstandings were. But there is utu or revenge and cannabilism involved.
Into this novel is put a 15 year old boy Thomas Davidson who is based on a real character who survived the Boyd because of a friendship he had with George a Maori Chief’s son. It is he who narrates this story while on a journey back to England via South American on the good ship City of Edinburgh.
Much of the blame for the massacre and burning is put on Captain Thompson of the Boyd, a cruel disciplinarian, and the actions of the ship that visited Whangaroa before the Boyd.
Life on board ship and early life in New Zealand are well told and this novel adds a personal dimension to an important incident in early New Zealand history.
I enjoyed the novel which is for middle school through to junior high school students.