Because of this.
Ghosts of Parihaka by David Hair, Harper Collins, $24.99, ISBN 9781869509323, 4 April 2013
Ghosts of Parihaka is book 5 in David Hair’s popular Aotearoa series, and it’s the penultimate instalment. It’s nice to have some NZ YA fantastical fiction kicking around. Our hero, Matiu Douglas, is able to slip between two worlds – our modern day world of New Zealand and the parallel country of Aotearoa, a ghost world that combines elements of NZ history and myth. In Ghosts of Parihaka Matiu’s best friend Riki goes missing on a school trip to Parihaka – caught up in the Aotearoa-en version of events.
It’s a perfectly enjoyable read with a few points of detraction but I’d still be recommending this to most Kiwi kids and teens. Leaving aside questions of cultural appropriation, there’s still a bit of a thrill in seeing Maori and Pakeha myths and legends combined in a skilful way.
Detractions first: it suffers a bit from penultimate curse, in that there are interesting storylines that are started or advanced in Ghosts of Parihaka but not wrapped up, and that makes it not quite as satisfying a read as it could be. There’s a fine line between teasing and irritating and Hair doesn’t always get it right.
But my biggest gripe would have to be the female characters. I think this is a book designed to attract boys but I do wish it had a female character who stands on her own, rather than solely in relation to the males.
Ultimately though I think Hair is doing a great job of exploring how two separate cultural identities can be combined into one national identity through shared history and knowledge.
Plus the kids will like it.
This year’s nominees for the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards have been announced and I’m happy about two in particular.
- Rachael King for Red Rocks because she’s an all-around fantastic New Zealand writer.
- Earth Dragon, Fire Hare by Ken Catran because I thought this was an excellent and thoughtful YA book.
A hearty congratulations to all the nominees!
The pony books I read as an impressionable youth starred rich girls in a parallel universe of jodhpurs and gymkhanas. Jade’s Summer of Horses is still a fantasy, but a much more relatable one. (The exception to the problem of unrelatable pony stories is The Pony Problem, a classic I must have read ten times.)
Both the setting of Jade’s Summer of Horses – small-town New Zealand – and the characters – Jade’s single-parent dad, a very prickly aunt, and a pretty-much homeless neighbour – are different to what I remember in horse books. The plot’s a little different too: Jade has to sell her lovely old horse, Pip. Luckily, she finds the perfect buyer in her friend’s very prickly aunt, who happens to own a riding school, and would love to have Jade and her friend stay for a Summer of Horses. Jade makes friends with the aunt, the horses, and the next door neighbour who lives in a shipping crate and brings about the book’s – spoiler – happy ending.
There’s an awful lot about horses in this book. Jade goes riding around the paddock, in the sea, along the beach, and in the forest. It sounds rather exhausting, but she seems to enjoy it, as presumably, does our young reader. There’s instructions in the back of the book on How to Mount and Hold the Reins, which rather suggests that the audience isn’t the type of child who takes riding lessons, but the type of child who would very much like to.
It’s easy to dismiss horse books as nonsense written for girls, but Jade’s Summer of Horses takes care to introduce a variety of characters, in between loving descriptions of horse riding. Brown doesn’t speak down to the reader: there are lovely long words scattered about, and the more interesting characters are described perfectly matter-of-factly.
I especially enjoyed the loving descriptions of the food. In true Famous Five fashion, the characters eat regularly, and with great gusto. There’s pipis, fish pie, pancakes, toasted marshmellows, and “steaming hot, aromatic bread, on which the butter melted deliciously.” It’s great that the book is set locally – it’s always nice to see the place we live reflected, and especially as the beach is far more accessible than Platform 9 and 3/4s.
The only thing better than a good horse book is a series of good horse books. This is the 4th book in the Pony Tales series, all of which star Jade.
All in all, Jade’s Summer of Horses is a very solid pony book. Highly recommended for the pony-crazed young reader in your life.
By Joy Cowley, Illustrated by Philip Webb (Clean Slate Press, $24.99)
Wishy-Washy World brings together Joy Cowley’s beloved Mr and Mrs Wishy-Washy stories (featuring their duck, cow and pig), previously only available in educational editions. A beautiful hardcover picture book with delightful illustrations by Philip Webb, Wishy-Washy World is only available at Whitcoulls stores and is the perfect read-along book for little kids.
By K.D. Berry (Bluewood Publishing, US$14.99, ebook US$2.99)
K.D. Berry is the pen name of Christchurch authors Kevin and Diane Berry, who recently won Best New Talent in the Sir Julius Vogel fan-voted awards for sci-fi, fantasy or horror. Dragons Away! is their first novel and it’s a rollicking adventure with a wry sense of humour. The influence of Terry Pratchett is unmistakable and while it could do with a stronger editing hand to keep the plot on-track it’s still a fun and funny read.
By Glen Duncan (Text Publishing, $37)
Talulla Rising is the follow-up to last year’s fantastic The Last Werewolf and, like its predecessor, combines a literary sensibility with an action-packed plotline. Picking up where The Last Werewolf left off, Talulla Rising follows Talulla in the continuing battle between werewolf, WOCOP and vampires. Not for the faint-of-heart or the weak-of-stomach, reading Talulla Rising is a visceral and compulsive experience.
Earth Dragon, Fire Hare
By Ken Catran (Harper Collins, $24.99)
A brilliant young adult novel, Earth Dragon, Fire Hare is set in 1948 during the first years of the Malayan “emergency” (rightly referred to in the blurb as “New Zealand’s forgotten war”). The reader sees the war from both sides: that of Ng, a Communist guerrilla fighter, and Peter, a Kiwi soldier who doesn’t really know why he’s fighting. Catran doesn’t shy away from the difficult ambivalent questions or realities of war, and in doing so creates a deeply believable story with a spiritual streak.
Reprinted with permission of the NZ Herald on Sunday.
Not Drowning, Reading
By Andrew Relph (Fremantle Press, $30)
A memoir for readers, Not Drowning, Reading is an affecting meditation on a life of reading (or not reading). Relph had a reading disability as a child so there’s a real intensity to this “literary conversation”. I was simultaneously moved and spirited by Relph’s reflections on what books can mean to a child, a teenager, and an adult, in fact what books can bring to a whole life.
The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse
By Fredrik Brouneus (Steam Press, $30 paperback, $12 ebook)
The first book from brand new New Zealand speculative fiction publisher, Steam Press, The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse bodes very well for the future of NZ publishing. A very clever, very funny and very enjoyable YA read which had me very envious of the talents of its author, Fredrik Brouneus. Brouneus may be Swedish but his book is definitely Kiwi, and should be on every Kiwi bookshelf. Packed with action, puns, science, philosophy and soul.
Mystery at Riddle Gully
By Jen Banyard (Fremantle Press, $18.99)
Pollo di Nozi – she’s a reporter in training and she’s out for a scoop! Along with her sheepish sidekick, Shorn Connery (yes, I giggled every time I read it), Pollo’s going to find out what’s happening in Riddle Gully. A smart and funny chapter book for kids, Mystery at Riddle Gully will engage any reader. Banyard uses humour and a touch of the spooky to produce an entertaining read that still tackles some of the serious issues most kids have to deal with.
Love & Money
By Greg McGee (Penguin, $29.99)
McGee’s first novel under his own name (having published two crime novels under the pseudonym Alix Bosco), Love & Money is a true New Zealand satire set in 1987 – a time that seems disturbingly familiar. Our protagonist is Mike, an ex-hippy actor who is almost gratingly inept at modern life. Love & Money combines brittle commentary on our recent financial and political landscape with slapstick comedy and a playfully poignant celebration of family.