Sunday, May 24, 2009

Margaret Mahy makes History Fun

Awesome Aotearoa: History of New Zealand by Margaret Mahy (AUT Media) RRP $29.95

Twitchy Islands
There was once - oh, ages ago - a great southern continent called Gondwanaland. In spite of its size and grandeur it was probably dissatisfied because it wanted to be even bigger. Over many years - about 200 millions years ago - it twisted around with such profound discontent that it twisted itself out of existence, splitting into a lot of different islands, different countries, different continents: South America, Africa, India, Australia, Antarctica...

Margaret talks to the reader in a conversational tone whilst she unveils the history of New Zealand. You'll find her delightful turn-of-phrase in abundance:

"For New Zealand does seem to be one of those restless countries that has crumbs in its bed and needs to wriggle around in order to be comfortable. It buries bits of itself down below, and then pushes other pieces up. It is not one of those countries, like Australia, simply lounging around, peacefully yawning from time to time and then having a bit of a snooze."

Margaret begins with the breaking up of Gondwanaland and continues giving tasty geological, cultural, historical and political details right up to when we voted in our first female Prime Minister. Alongside Margaret's playful text you'll find Trace Hodgson's black and white cartoon illustrations, which bring another layer of humour. There is a generous index, fun sub-titles and the chapters are not too long so the intended reader (aged 9-11 years) will not find it 'Boering'.

A must-have book for your bookshelves and school libraries. Margaret Mahy fans agree - the book went straight to number one in the Top Bestselling New Zealand Children and Young Adult's List within weeks of it being released.
Reviewed by Maria Gill

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