Thursday, May 9, 2013

Junior Fiction title about one of New Zealand's worst maritime disasters

Where the Flag Floats by D.C. Grant, Pear Jam Books

Most Aucklanders know a little about the wreck of the screw-driven corvette HMS Orpheus on the Manukau Bar on February 7th 1863 (the 150th anniversary was this year). Many of us have visited the memorial and the little museum at Huia. But it takes a vivid and absorbing story such as this to really make us understand what happened. It was New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster, with 189 crew members killed out of a total of 259. Dawn Grant has woven a highly readable account of the disaster from the point of view of a young stowaway, Sam Galloway. It begins with Sam becoming a penniless orphan when his mother dies in Sydney. His only hope is a valuable watch engraved with an inscription that he can’t read because he is illiterate. This watch apparently proves that he’s related to a wealthy family - he knows he has to travel to Auckland to find them. But villains interfere and Sam ends up hiding on the Orpheus, still in pursuit of his precious watch. When the shipwreck happens, Sam is near the officers who are debating the best way to go over the bar - and he hears their fateful decisions. The author’s descriptions of the gradual disintegration of the ship and the deaths of the sailors make gripping reading. I won’t say what happens to Sam, but the story does end happily. Highly recommended for young readers of about 9 to 14 who like historical stories - and it would also be useful as part of a classroom study of disasters.

DC Grant writes about sports, guns and battles, but not always in the same book. Grant's first book In Too Deep is about surfing. The first book in the Catch Jason Shaw series, High Speed, is about murder. Other works include historical fiction and featured pieces on
ISBN 978-0-473-23618-2 RRP $19.99 (pbk) $4.99 (e-book) Pb
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Reviewed by Lorraine Orman



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