About Me

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Victoria, Australia
I am an author of Young Adult Fiction books. I worked as a teacher in the Pacific Islands for seven years. Whilst in the Solomon Islands I taught PSSC English before the ethnic tension in 2000 forced a change of plans. I love Pacific literature, art and music. You can find me on Facebook at Beth Montgomery Author.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The First Voyage by Allan Baillie

The First Voyage
 (Puffin, 2014)
The First Voyage is a tale about people long ago, when the land mass known as Sahul was in existence. It is now known as New Guinea and Australia. This story is set around 30,000 years ago when the Yam tribe escape persecution from the Crocodile tribe. The main characters are teenagers Bent Beak and The Wind. There are elders and younger members of the tribe too that the reader grows to love. Unfortunately some characters die, but most of the tribe makes it off Bird Island (one day to become Timor Leste) to travel by raft across the sea to a wide red land (one day to become Australia).

I enjoyed this book, for its simplicity and endearing characters. It is a great adventure.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Illustrated Myths and Legends of the Pacific by A.W. Reed

Illustrated Myths and Legends of the Pacific
 (2007, Reed Books)
This book is gorgeous because the watercolour illustrations are so realistic and engaging. But the stories also range from humorous, such as the 'Foolish Canoe Paddlers', to dark, such as the story from Vanuatu called the 'Six Men Who Tried to Catch a Sunbeam'. Many Pacific Island nations are  represented. Although Tuvalu and Kiribati miss out for some reason.
   Jennifer Cooper is the illustrator and she has done a tremendous job. Even on pages without a major illustration, she has created borders or motifs at the edge of the text, that depict island lifestyles.
   A wonderful children's book and a great resource for teachers who need to implement a bit of Pasifika into the curriculum.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

(Indigo, 2011)
On a remote island called Blessed, newcomer Eric and local girl Merle are falling in love. But Eric can't help feeling he's been there before, and Merle seems so familiar, so beautiful, so enticing...
It turns out Eric has been to Blessed before. Midwinterblood is set in seven different times telling the story of Eric and Merle. Centuries ago they were King and Queen of the island, but famine and disease led the superstitious villagers to sacrifice the king.  As he died he swore he would live seven lives and his queen swore she would follow him. What follows is a creepy, but beautifully crafted tale of reincarnation, love and sacrifice.
   Marcus Sedgwick is a master of creepy tales and this is no exception. His depiction of the island is eerie in itself. There are no children. A mysterious purple-black flower with narcotic and healing properties grows freely and hares roam the island. Although both of these seem innocent enough, their recurring use throughout the book over each of the lives of Eric and Merle, lends a spooky tone to the novel.
   A terrific read from a gothic master, this book is well worth reading.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Magic Seashell by Makerita Urale

Masina is woman castaway on a lonely island. She finds a beautiful shell and wears it as a necklace. She spends many years alone on the island, fending for herself and building a beautiful home and garden. One day a huge cyclone comes and destroys everything on the island. In her flight to get to safety in a cave, she loses her shell necklace. Bereft, Masina sits and cries.

The Magic Seashell
(Steele Roberts, 1999)
Unbeknown to her, the shell necklace washes up on another island and sets in place a rescue mission.
   The Magic Seashell is a picture story book, aimed at children. It is unusual because the main characters are adults, not children, yet the story has a strong mythical quality to it which makes it endearing. Although the text is quite long, Makerita Urale has crafted a gentle story full of emotion and dialogue that will delight readers.
   The illustrator, Samuel Sakaria, has produced a variety of pictures, predominately in vibrant yellows and blues to accompany each page. Some illustrations have interesting borders depicting island motifs and woven patterns.
  This is a beautiful
book with a happy ending.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Father's Islands by Christobel Mattingley

Before I read Christobel Mattingley's book I knew zilch about the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman. In fact, I didn't even know he was Dutch. Now I have a great deal of respect for a man who spent years at sea for very little thanks from the Councillors and the Governor General who sent him on such dangerous expeditions.
My Father's Islands (NLA
 Publishing, 2012)
   My Father's Islands is written from the point of view of Tasman's young daughter, Claesgen, who spent most of her life in Batavia (now Jakarta) during the mid 1600s. This gives emotion and depth to a subject I have always found hard to get enthusiastic about - explorers. I think this is because my father raved on about Bourke and Wills and Charles Sturt and Oxley and Blaxland and numerous others for much of my childhood. It has given me a kind of allergic reaction to Australian explorer stories. With this in mind, I think I did well to finish this small book.
   However half way through the story Tasman's ships left Tasmania and journeyed to New Zealand, Tonga and later, the Solomon Islands and New Ireland. These were the parts I found fascinating, especially his encounters with the islanders.
   The text is pitched at children, though it is a good book for history buffs of all ages. It is filled with charts and illustrations taken on Tasman's journey along the S
outhern Ocean, past Tasmania, through to New Zealand and then on to the Pacific Isles.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Ponape, 1994 Source: B. Montgomery
On wet, windy, winter days, like I'm living through right now, I wish I could be back in Micronesia, enjoying the sun, the sea and the slow pace of life. Dream on...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Island of Four Rivers by Christopher Morgan

I actually listened to this as a talking book and I must say it kept me enthralled over many hours driving in the car. It is the story of Henry Davis, a boring middle-aged man whose life is falling to pieces. His wife and daughter have left him, and his father has had a stroke and is in a coma in hospital.

The Island of four Rivers (Scribe, 2006)
   Henry moves in with his mother, much to her dislike. Then his sister Eleanor, formally a nun, turns up with a Latin lover.
   So what has any of this to do with an island? Well, there is another story going on in this novel.   
   "Crabby" Davis, a Victorian explorer, has been left on the island of Sulupandasan. He befriends a local poetry-writing chieftain, battles an evil beast, makes an enemy of a witch-doctor and falls in love with a beautiful island maiden. There are four rivers on the island and from time to time each one dries up. Crabby goes on a quest to try and find the source of the four rivers. At the great lake a giant turtle is blocking the stream, causing the river to dry up. It might sound weird, but the two stories come together beautifully at the end when Henry needs to decide about turning off his father's life support system.
   Despite the serious background to this book, there are plenty of lighter moments and even times that made me burst out laughing. I also loved the fact that my home town of Wonthaggi was mentioned in the text. Henry Davis is transformed in this story from a selfish bore to a risk-taking man in love. And the story of his fantastical ancestor Crabby, is both a tribute to and a gentle parody of, the old swashbuckling stories of colonial exploration.
   A delightful story!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Our Island by the children of Gununa, Alison Lester and Elizabeth Honey

Our Island (Viking, 2014)
Our Island is a picture story book with gorgeous illustrations by the children of Mornington Island State School. The pictures were drawn using crayons and then food dye was used as a wash over the top. The results are terrific, providing shadows and texture in all the right places. All the pages show some aspect of their island, either the wildlife or the landscape and how the many settings provide the best habitat for the range of creatures that live on the island.
   A delightful book for young children.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Sea on our Skin by Madeleine Tobert

The Sea on Our Skin
(Two Roads, 2012)
This is the story of a violent man, Ioane, who marries a girl named Amalia on a remote island somewhere in the Pacific (but quite like Fiji). The book has the feel of a fable as the characters are in many ways unreal. This is especially the case of the old man in the canoe and the co-joined twins who are different genders. This quality doesn't detract from the story, however. If anything it enhances it.
   Ioane beats his wife and leaves the island only to return years later. He repeats this strange behaviour over and over, and throughout this time Amalia bears him five children. Each has a clearly defined personality and each is affected by their father's treatment of their mother.
   Eventually Amalia fights back and Ioane's life is changed forever. But his need to escape the island has been imprinted on one of his sons. And so the need for travel conflicts once again with the love for home in the next generation.
   I loved this book because of it's fairy-tale qualities, it's haunting commentary on relationships and death and the way the characters are bound to the sea. Tobert comments on the ocean in some way on every page, but the result isn't repetitious, it's beautiful.