Bastion Point: 507 Days on Takaparawha by Tania Roxborogh (Scholastic)
(MY New Zealand Story series)
I was a teenager in the 1970s and can remember the Bastion Point protest. Newspaper and TV news reportage on the occupation were biased against Ngati Whatua's occupation, making out that what they were doing was scandalous. I didn't realise that then, that's why Bastion Point: 507 Days on Takaparawha is so important. Tania has ensured the backdrop to her fictional story is accurate and realistic; reading newspaper articles, court transcripts, and interviewing key people in order to give the Maori point of view of the historical protest.
The fictional story is about 12-year-old Erica who has just been given permission to buy a horse she has helped care for since its birth. Erica plans how she is going to train the young horse and is all set to begin when her parents tell her they are going on a short holiday down south. Erica is a reluctant occupant at Bastion Point but over the course of the 507 days she sees the passion, hears the stories, and experiences the hardship of what the protest really means to her whanau. Along the way she loses something that is precious to her and has to deal with that. She writes down everything that happens in her diary and we experience it along with her day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month.
If I was still teaching at Intermediate I would definitely be using this book either as a study in English or in Social Studies. It's a book that shouldn't be ignored; it sets the story right for Ngati Whatua (within a fictional story), and it is also inspiring for kids to read, showing that if you believe in something enough and stick to your resolve - you can make a difference. Written in diary format, it's also a coming-of-age story, showing a young girl realise that her own personal goals sometimes have to make way for a bigger project. Tania's writing is superb and will keep you reading until the end.
Tania Roxborogh has written over 25 books, many of which have won awards or shortlisted. Tania writes in the weekends and evenings - her day job is teaching English at her local high school. As well as a teaching degree she holds a BA in Maori language. In her spare time, she rides her horse, with her daughter in the Canterbury countryside.
Bloodlines: A Crown of Honour, Book 2 by Tania Roxborogh (Thomas & Mercer) US & UK editions, audio version published by Brilliance Audio
I had never listened to audio books until I played first 'Banquo's Son' and then 'Bloodlines' on my car CD player. Wow, I'm a convert. Both books have been narrated by actor Napoleon Ryan and his Scottish voice is perfect for the setting. I had several long journeys while listening to these tapes and when I came to the end of the trip, I didn't want to stop - the story kept me on the edge of my seat from the first page until the end.
'Bloodlines' takes off after the rebellion that is the climax in 'Banquo's Son'. Fleance settles into his role as King of Scotland and must find out who the rebels are that threaten his reign and peace in the country. When Rachael is kidnapped he puts all that at risk to save her. Along the way he questions who he can trust; some people he thought were friends become frenemies. The story ends in a twist that I did not see coming. I can't wait to get my hands on the third book in the series 'Birthright', which is out end of March with 'White Glove', a branch of Amazon in print and kindle editions. Sadly, we'll have to wait a while before the audio version comes out.
I really enjoyed how Tania tells the story in a variety of point of views. For some books, I've found this irritating when there are many voices and it can stop the flow of a story, but it works for this book. We hear Fleance's story (his turmoil of who to marry; Rachel of royal blood or his first love Rosie). Then Rosie's point of view (her angst and need to carry on with her life), and Rachel (a strong female character who can get herself out of trouble), plus several other characters' point of views. It enables you to see the motives of some and the turmoil of others.
I hope High School English classes are using this series. They are expertly written, well researched for the medieval time period and have several themes running through them, which make them perfect for closer study. Would make a good comparison novel with Macbeth, too. I highly recommend this book for teenagers and adults.
Print version $11.99 (Amazon)
Ebook version $1.14 (Kindle)
Audio version $10 (CD) $6 (MP3)