Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cry of the Taniwha by Des Hunt, HarperCollins NZ
Des Hunt seems to be able to spin an endless line of exciting yarns for intermediate-aged readers. His fans will not be disappointed with this latest adventure, set in the eerie and odorous town of Rotorua. Matt Logan is spending the holidays there, staying with his grandmother and a new step-grandfather. Almost against his will he get involved with the boy next door, who has links with a local gang. Together they discover a buried skeleton – but the possibility of buried treasure brings the gang after the two boys. The gang uses threats and violence to force Matt and Juzza to hunt for buried valuables. As always with Des Hunt’s books, there’s a gripping climax scene where the bad guys get their come-uppance.
Underlying the action and excitement of the plot are several themes which add an extra dimension to the story – there’s the distinct message that gangs are connected to crime, violence and intimidation, and there’s also a hint of Maori mythology with the suggestion that the grey heron is a manifestation of a local taniwha.
ISBN 978 1 86950 731 2 RRP $19
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

The Loblolly Boy by James Norcliffe, Longacre Press
Unusual fantasies like this are rarely published in New Zealand – Longacre Press is following its long-standing tradition of publishing cutting-edge fiction. As I read it I was reminded of the work of David Almond, Geraldine McCaughrean, and William Nicholson - writers who sweep the reader along with the sheer depth and power of their fantasy worlds. Sometimes the reader is not quite sure what’s going on – or why – but it doesn’t really matter. This tale could possibly be read as an allegory – but I suspect young readers will simply take it at face value as a mysterious and intriguing tale.
An unhappy boy called Red, imprisoned in a grim orphanage, meets a strange being who has wings and can fly. The Loblolly Boy convinces Red to change bodies with him – and suddenly Red finds he can fly in glorious fashion. But being the Loblolly Boy has penalties, and Red embarks on a long journey of discovery and adventure to find his way back to his former self – a very different former self. A stunning cover will attract the eye of most intermediate-aged fantasy fans – but I would recommend it for advanced readers who like something a bit different.
Resource Kit for teachers.
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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