Cuz by Liz Van Der Laarse, One Tree House
This ambitious new publishing house has released its first four books, with many more to come. Interestingly, two of the new titles are survival-in-the-wilderness books, which are ideally suited for the New Zealand market. Tens of thousands of tourists come here for the bush, the mountains and the coast. New Zealanders need to cherish these environments – but also remember that they can be very dangerous.
In Cuz, two 14-year-old cousins are shipwrecked on the cruel Fiordland coast. Sadly, Huia’s father dies in the catastrophe, and grief for him overshadows Huia throughout the book. She and River manage to get to shore, and realise their only chance of survival is to walk east across the mountain ranges. I was enthralled by the challenges they faced, and fascinated by Huia’s family knowledge of the fauna and flora – without knowing which berries and shoots to eat, they would have starved. River also proves himself by trapping birds and contributing to the food supply.
The author has tramped extensively, and has been a journalist for Wilderness Magazine. She has previously written two children’s novels. Teachers and librarians need to know that many Maori words and concepts are used throughout the text – in fact, Maori wisdom is an important part of one of the themes. River is initially made uncomfortable by Huia’s understanding of the bush, but eventually he realises that he should learn about his heritage.
A great read for adventure fans of intermediate and early teen levels.
ISBN 978 0 47339 706 7 RRP $20.00 Pb
Sticking With Pigs by Mary-Anne Scott, One Tree House
The cover is an optical illusion for tired eyes, but the story is as gutsy as they come. Teachers, parents and librarians need to know there is a great deal of blood and guts adding raw authenticity to this story of a pig-hunt gone wrong. Wolf, aged 14, sets off with his Uncle Jem and two dogs to kill his first wild pig. One of the dogs is injured but the hunters manage to kill their prey. Wolf is determined he’s going to carry the heavy carcass home for his brother, who’s recently been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. But Uncle Jem wrecks his knee, and Wolf ends up lugging the carcass through kilometres of unforgiving bush to find the truck and drive it to find help. It’s a graphic, high-tension, sometimes shocking story that will appeal to boys aged about 12 to 14 who are interested in the idea of testing themselves by going pig-hunting in the wilderness.
For a similar (but less bloodthirsty) story aimed at much younger readers, check out Deborah Burnside’s Night Hunting (Penguin).
Mary-Anne Scott has previously published two YA books, one award-winning and one shortlisted. She has proved her expertise by raising four sons: she now also has three grandsons. At the back of the book are links to useful organisations such as hunting clubs, tramping clubs, and outdoor suppliers.
ISBN 978 0 9951064 0 6 RRP $20.00 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman