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.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Bone People by Keri Hulme

The Bone People
(Picador, 1985)
It's Christmas and I've just finished reading this massive tome, which concludes with a Christmas party: a drunken, rowdy and full of hope scene. It's been a harrowing week trying to wade my way through The Bone People. There were several times when the violence irked me so much I was tempted to give up, but I had to find out what became of the central character, a six year old autistic boy.
   Simon is orphaned and cannot speak. He has the usual gamut of sensory issues that autistic people have and a talent for collecting trinkets, or stealing them depending on your point of view. When he can't express himself he lashes out violently. All of these things resonate with me now as autism has appeared in my own family. Of course all autistic people are different from one another and heaps of them can speak quite well and wouldn't dream of stealing anything. But the character of young Simon is so well drawn that I instantly felt for him.
   The other two characters were harder to swallow, but they too were drawn with complexity and compassion. Agressive Joe was so cruel to his son, that it made me wince but the story made me aware of the pressure he was under and how broken he was inside. Whereas Kerewin Holmes, the solitary painter who befriends Simon and Joe, and who recovers from a seemingly life-threatening illness seemed to wallow in drink and depression too much for my liking.
   I can't say this was an easy book to read. The Maori throughout became annoying when I had to break the fictional dream to keep flipping to the glossary. However the story was as engrossing as it was confronting. The dialogue was realistic and I got a real sense of the fragile love each of these three characters had for one another.
   This book won the Booker Prize in 1985 and is considered a classic of NZ literature. It's certainly one of those books that stays with you long after you put it down. Give yourself time to read this, it's not light summer entertainment, but it is worth the effort.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Nim's Island by Wendy Orr

Nim's Island (Allen and Unwin, 1999)
There are some books that you think you must get around to reading some day but they are not a priority. I have a whole shelf full of classics that fall into this category. But for me, many Australian children's books are also put to one side as I read something from NZ or elsewhere overseas. This week I had the good fortune to meet Wendy Orr and I picked up a copy of her book Nim's Island. It was quirky and fun, a mixture of Robinson Crusoe and a Roald Dahl type of story. I think it was the drawings that made me think of Dahl's books too. The illustrator Kerry Millard has a similar style to Quentin Blake who depicted much of Dahl's work.
   But first to the plot ...Nim is a young girl who lives with her father on a remote island somewhere in the sea...the location isn't important but it's enough to know that a tourist ship and a cargo ship are within reach occassionally. Nim's Dad has to leave Nim alone on the island for a few days but a mishap at sea during a storm means that he is delayed. Nim is fine with fending for herself but when she gets sick and the bad guys (tourists) threaten her turf, Nim has to resort to drastic measures.
   Throughout the book she corresponds with an adventure author, Alex (who's not so adventurous) and eventually they manage to meet one another. The story works due to the email, solar panel, techno twist, otherwise Nim relies on the abilities of her animal companions who are very nifty in an emergency.
   This is a great adventure for younger readers. It is now also a movie, but I haven't seen it yet. Maybe I'll hire it out over Christmas and let you know if it matches up to the book.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Among the Islands by Tim Flannery

I've been waiting for months for this book to come out, chiefly because it is about two things I find fascinating: the Pacific Islands and biology. Tim Flannery is a scientist and author who has written extensively on prehistoric Australia, mammals of Australia and New Guinea, Climate change and Australian explorers. Among the Islands follows his work as a young field scientist gathering specimens and data in the islands of Melanesia. 
Among the Islands (2011, Text Publishing)
   He travels to islands in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and New Caledonia searching for bats, rats, wallabies and possums. I was amazed to read that Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands was once home to three large rats, one as big as a cat even. I remember well the rats that lived in my house in Guadalcanal, gnawing through the walls and electrical cabling almost every night. I was pretty sure they were only regular sized rats. I think I would have totally freaked if they were as big as cats!
A cuscus from Woodlark Island in
PNG. Source: Tim Flannery.
   I was really thrilled to see he had also been to Makira, (another island where I lived for a while), looking for bats.  There are certainly lots of them there! (Each October night I remember the fruit bats squealed in the mango tree outside my bedroom.)  Among the Islands is filled with funny stories of Flannery's travels. Flannery manages to present unfamiliar island customs to the Western reader with sensitivity and understanding. Apart from his muddling east and west in one paragraph about Guadalcanal, I felt totally at home with his descriptions of the Solomon Islands.
   If you are interested in zoology this book is a treasure, and for our Pacific Island friends, this book gives a good account of some of your disappearing wildlife. Maybe this is a good one for a Christmas stocking!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Heart of Danger by Fleur Beale

Heart of Danger
(2011, Random House)
It was great to read the last installment of the Juno of Taris series. As a character Juno has always been feisty, interesting and genuine. Although there was nothing really of 'island' interest in this book, it's still important for me to review it as the first book was such an 'island' classic.
   In this third book, Heart of Danger, Juno returns to once again save the day but I have to admit that this novel wasn't as compelling as the first two. The story is written with an easy style and Juno's voice is friendly and at times hopelessly and endearingly in love, but for all this I felt that the book dragged on too long.
   The action centres around the disappearance of Juno's younger sister Hera. Juno discovers Hera at a bush settlement, a captive of a strange cult-like group.  The girls have to fight their way home and then a court case follows. For me all the action was over once Hera was rescued, but there was still over a hundred pages to go. Despite being disappointed with the tension I felt that the book resolved issues from the first two books well and gave the reader a real sense of optimism about the future of the people of Taris.
    It's well worth reading if you enjoyed the first two books, but I'm not sure that it would stand alone as well as they did. The second half of the book relies a lot on the history of the original novel, Juno of Taris, and there are so many characters that someone new to the series is bound to become confused. Nevertheless this is still a terrific series for teenage readers.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Author Interview: Fleur Beale

Fleur Beale is a kiwi author who has written the terrific Juno of Taris series. The first book in the series, Juno of Taris, won the 2010 Esther Glen Award. The follow up, Fierce September, won the Young Adult Fiction Award in the 2011 NZ Post Children's Book Awards. The final volume, Heart of Danger is available now and published by Random House. I'm reading it right now, so I'll post a review as soon as I finish it. Below is an interview I conducted with Fleur Beale this week.

1                     You are a prolific children’s writer. What is it that you like most about your job?
What I like about being a writer is the freedom. I can work when I want to, and if it's a sunny day I can go to the beach. It's fun too to be in charge of a world that's your own creation. I can also daydream and call it work!
        Can you take us through your typical writing day?
I've got a little office in town in an old building. I go in on the bus in the mornings and write till about 1 or two. Sometimes I'll start again when I get home, or I'll catch up on paperwork. If it's raining, I stay home and write.
     How long did it take you to write the Juno of Taris series and was it originally devised as a series?
When I wrote Juno of Taris I had no thought of writing a series. The idea for that only popped up once the book was published. I wrote the book several years before it was published, but the manuscript got lost on the way to an agent in the US. I printed it out again and when I read it I could see that it needed more work. I threw the manuscript in the cupboard and went off to live in the UK for a year. I didn't look at the story again till some time after I got back home. I read it and still liked the story but by leaving so much time between writing it and revisiting it, I could see clearly where it needed to be worked on. I had to completely rewrite it because the computer the document was on got stolen three days before I was due to leave London and all I had was the discarded manuscript in the cupboard.
       A bio-dome in the Pacific Ocean is an interesting take on speculative fiction. What inspired your idea?
I wanted a remote area where it would be feasible that all communication with the outside world could be cut off. I'd been to the Eden Project in Devon and seen the bio-domes there so I just made the Taris one bigger.
       So far the books in the Juno of Taris series have won some prestigious prizes. Are you surprised by the series’ success so far?
Yes, but very, very delighted!
6                     The blogs you set up were an interesting adjunct to this series. What took you down this path?
I heard a young woman say she could never resist looking up any website address she saw and the blog idea developed from there.

       What are your three favourite island stories?
I'm probably not intrigued by island stories as such, it's more the constraints such an environment places on its inhabitants. I like stories where there are boundaries for the characters to push and struggle against. I enjoyed Mandy Hager's Blood of the Lamb series though, and Anna Mackenzie's Seawreck Stranger trilogy - both of which involve islands.

      If you had to live in an island bio-dome for a year what would your major duties be?
I'd probably be a spinner and weaver. I wouldn't like people to have to depend on my gardening skills!
Thanks Fleur and all the best with your future writing.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tales of the Tikongs by Epeli Hau'ofa

Tales of the Tikongs
(1983, Longman Paul)
Tales of the Tikongs is a slim volume of twelve short stories. It was published way back in 1983 and unfortunately the Tongan author, Epeli Hau'ofa, has since passed away. Such a shame, since this man was clearly a terrific writer with a sharp wit and a critical eye. His stories make fun of everyone from those in power, such as expatriot workers, clergymen, and Government ministers, to everyday villagers and their children. Nothing is sacred and some stories are quite smutty.
   If you enjoy a good laugh then this collection is a must. Even the tame stories are bound to put a smile on your face. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is feeling a bit miserable or to those who are bogged down by government officialdom.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi
(Cannongate, 2002)
With the tragic news of a number of Bengal tigers being shot yesterday in a bizarre private zoo break-out in America, it brought to mind how dangerous these animals can be. Which made me think of a delightful sea-faring story of survival and courage called Life of Pi. I have to say this is one of the strangest plots I've ever come across, but oh boy, what a tremendous story!
   Life of Pi is about a young Indian lad adrift in a vast ocean in a lifeboat. Perhaps that doesn't seem remarkable, but the odd complication to this story is that the hero, Pi, has to share the boat with some exotic animals, the most formidable being a large tiger called Richard Parker. Pi's efforts to stay alive are funny and ingenious. His knowledge of animal psychology saves his life on many occassions. Although Pi manages to feed himself with a few turtles over his time at sea,  he is always aware of the hungry tiger only metres from where he sleeps.
   I have to say this is one of the best books I have read in recent years. The humour is ever-present and I was amazed at how Martel manages to keep the story alive in such detail with so few characters interacting. I have heard that Life of Pi will be made into a film soon. I hope it does a good job of depicting the novel. This book won the Man Booker Prize in 2002 and has sold millions of copies. It's one of those modern classics that is well worth trying. It would be suitable for older students who have a good grasp of English. I have to give it five stars. It's just brilliant!

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Wreck of the Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo

The Wreck of the Zanzibar is a delightful story for children. Written by Michael Morpurgo, the book recounts a year in the life of young Laura who lives on a small island during the early 1900s. The island community supplements their subsistance lifestyles with any flotsam and jetsam they can salvage from the many ships that wreck on the nearby islands. Laura is keen to row out to one of the wrecks but her fathher won't let her.
The Wreck of the Zanzibar
(Mammoth, 1995)
   Things start to get bad on the island when storms damage many buildings and all the livestock sicken and drown. The islanders have nothing left to eat but shellfish. To make things worse Laura's twin brother leaves to find his fortune on a merchant vessel. Then one day Laura finds a turtle washed up on the beach. Hungry as she is, she resolves to save the animal, not eat it. And so begins a strange turn of events that end neatly in the restoration of the island and Laura's family reuniting.
   This book only took me two sittings to finish but I think it would be perfect for a primary school student, just gaining confidence with novels. It is more sophisticated than a chapter book, but the terrific pencil drawings illustrate the action well. The narrative is written as a diary which makes it easy to empathise with young Laura.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Clash of cultures

Last week I reviewed Marooned on Mogmog which was far from the best book ever written. However I often feel that the characteristic of a good book is that it stays with you in your head long after you have finished reading. Why then did this poorly written account disturb me for several days after I put it down?
  The central theme is a clash of cultures and it's a perennial topic that many fiction writers do well. I'm thinking here of Witi Ihimaera, Chinua Achebe and Albert Wendt to name but a few.  As these are all indiginous writers it got me thinking that perhaps it's because we understand the traditional culture so well through their voices that the cultural clash remains unresolved and therefore sticks with us. Then I recalled Sir Arthur Grimble's book, a Pattern of Islands. The writing is richly evocative and the the story set out in logical chapters. Published in the early 1950's it is an account of a British public servant sent to administer affairs in The Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati) almost a hundred years ago. Although in a position of power and writing from way back in the Victorian age, Grimble showed a willingness to understand and not to condemn the culture he wrote about.
So my discomfort with Barrie's writing is not anything to do with what angle the cultural clash is written from, rather it's the lack of empathy she presents.
      One the one hand I sympathise with the author in that values such as communal ownership and patriarchal oppression of women are hard for westerners to swallow.  But cultural change is a slow process and the views and behaviour of one liberated outsider seem unlikely to sway a whole entrenched community overnight.
   I often think about Australians as a group. We love to think that immigrants will come here and change their values and lifestyles to suit our way of life. Well guess what? It's not that easy. Perhaps the author would do well to meditate on that.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Marooned on Mogmog by Jennifer Barrie

I was really excited when I bought this book because it was billed as a modern-day Swiss Family Robinson: an Aussie family marooned on a remote island in the Federated States of Micronesia. Wow, just my thing! I settled down, started reading and immediately became uncomfortable.
Marooned on Mogmog
(Harper Collins, 2011)
   The quality of the writing is poor, which is such a shame as the author has a great tale to tell. There are many aspects which continually jar the reader. The verb tenses change so often, many times within paragraphs that it makes you re-read many paragraphs trying to sort out when things happened. Continuity between paragraphs is sometimes missing meaning that you are flung from one topic to another with little connectivity. Cliche's abound, repitition is rife. Many times the author fails to write of concrete things, instead saying things like...we had a lot of fun, (such as...?) or refers to a friend who 'you have to read her emails to understand'. So Ok, let us read the emails, OR... please omit this sentence  because it doesn't add to the story. If Barrie had stuck to concrete details all the way through as she does with the death of a dog and its aftermath, the whole story would have lifted. I got the impression that not much editing was done on this book.
  The narrator comes across as a fun person but her voice lacks consistancy. She is sometimes businesslike, sometimes whingeing, sometimes rude. The spattering of profanities don't do the book much good either. She also indulges in hubris and culture bashing too much for my liking. However, having been an expat in the Pacific I understand how easy it is to make cultural mistakes.
   I was really upset for this author because the cultural divide she writes about is fascinating. The photos are terrific too. If only the editing hadn't let her down she would have had a good book. As it stands it's less than average.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Finder's Shore by Anna Mackenzie

Finder's Shore
(2011, Random house)
Finder's Shore is the last book in Anna Mackenzie's Sea-wreck Stranger trilogy and in many ways it draws all the threads of the story together. Like most teens Ness doesn't know what career direction to take. Should she stay at the farm or join the scouts? Neither option appeals to her. When the chance to journey back to her home island comes, Ness must steel herself for the horrors she may find. In a dystopian world, Ness's choices are limited but there is a lot of hope in this story, and faith in the inevitability of change.
  The first book in this series was a 'cracker' and the second, Ebony Hill, seemed to be a slower more introspective book. Finder's Shore has glimmers of the tension from the first book but generally it follows the pattern of the second. Ness is basically an adult now and her actions are more measured than in her youthful days narration of  The Sea-wreck Stranger.  If there is one critisism of this story it is that there is a lot of what I call on, off, on, off... in this instance it's to do with a ship and Ness's home island of Dunnett. In a way the safety of the ship seemed to suck some of the tension out of the story. 
   The voice that Mackenzie has created for Ness is delightful and I never tire of it. If you haven't yet read the Sea-wreck Stranger I think you ought to get into it. It is a real treasure and although this one doesn't quite measure up it is still very satisfying to know what happens to Ness, her family and her new friend Ronan.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kimble Bent Malcontent by Chris Grosz

Kimble Bent Malcontent is a graphic novel written/drawn by Chris Grosz. It is jam packed with interesting facts about traditional Maori diet, culture and warfare as well as snippets about various military leaders in New Zealand in the 1860s. The story centres around a runaway soldier, Kimble Bent who sought refuge with the Hauhau people near Mt Taranaki during the time of the Taranaki War.
   I admit to knowing zilch about New Zealand history so this book filled me in on some of the battles and the atrocities committed by both sides. I was particularly fascinated by the way the Maori made ammunition and fortified their stockades, ready for attack.
Kimble Bent Malcontent
(Random House, 2011)
   The illustrations are all in black and white and some are pretty frightening. I found the sequence of pictures hard to follow on some pages, but it didn't detract too much from the story. There is a glossary at the front and on many pages there is detailed information about various facts such as how to make tattoo ink or who Major Von Tempsky was. There are also maps and plans of various stockades.
   I would recommend  this book to anyone interested in battles and history. The graphic novel is certainly a good way to present this historical material which often students find dry and uninteresting.

Friday, September 2, 2011


I love these decorative creations that adorn so many houses in the Pacific. It's amazing what can be done with plastic food wrappers. Someone has obviously spent hours folding, cutting and sewing food wrappers to make this interesting piece, displayed here at the Mothers Union Guest house in Buala, SI. And what do we do in Australia? We throw all these wrappers into landfill rubbish tips. Somehow I think the woman who made this decoration has a better grasp of resource management than those of us from developed nations.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cry of the Taniwha by Des Hunt

Cry of the Taniwha (Harper Collins, 2009)
This book is a runaway read. It only took me a few days to get through and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Aimed at older Primary , junior Secondary level, it is the story of Matt Logan, a boy on holidays with a metal detector. Matt discovers more than just a few gold coins when he goes detecting at Rotorua. He manages to unearth a mystery that has remained secret for over a hundred years.
   The first two chapters outline the historical crime but the rest of the narrative deals with the present including the tourists and the street gangs. Matt befriends Juzza, a youth determined to join a gang and Eve, an Aussie with a talent for research. The character of Juzza is well drawn as it's hard to determine where his loyalties lie. There is also a revered heron who takes part in the story.
   I think anyone who enjoys a mystery would like this novel. The pace is steady and the tension climbs well to the resolution. There is even a surprise ending...
   This book is probably too easy for PSSC students but it's still a great experience. It was shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Island Home by John Singe

My Island home (UQP, 2003)
I am ashamed to say that I never finished My Island Home. I tried to read it several times and I really wanted to finish it but I found the author's style turned me off. Not that he's a poor writer in terms of his command of English. It was the structure that failed to hold my attention.
   The black and white photos in the centre are delightful and I am sure that Singe's vast experience of more than 30 years in the Torres Strait bubbles with interesting anecdotes, customs and stories. However I found myself getting lost very quickly in the rambling and disjointed narrative he has written. This is such a pity as I could see dozens of opportunities in each chapter that were worth expanding and turning into heart-felt or humorous stories. Singe's rushed and crowded structure lacked connection with characters and so I felt little empathy with anyone he wrote about. I wish I could say more positive things but this book was truly hard work and I only managed to finish the first two chapters.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Five Parts Dead by Tim Pegler

I read this book a year ago and really enjoyed it. It's only on this blog though because it's set on an island off the coast of South Australia.  Otherwise it's a contemporary Young Adult Fiction story. It's about Dan, a teenage boy who recently survived a horror car smash, where three of his friend didn't. Dan is grieving. He is bitter and angry at the world and especially at his family for dragging him to a remote lighhouse, when his foot's all busted up and in plaster. He knows they'll go off exploring and enjoy themselves while he will brood over his loss. But this story isn't all teenage angst.
Five Parts dead (Text, 2010)
    When Dan reads the lighthouse keepers log, he uncovers a tragic secret which has been hidden for over one hundred years. This mystery engrosses him and keeps his mind off the accident. The two plot lines flow along well together. It's not until the end of the book that you discover why Dan is so guilt-ridden.
   Five Parts Dead also has some romance and Dan's love interest is well drawn. She'd have to be my favourite charcter in the book. I think Tim Pegler has done a good job with the characters making them believable and complex. This is a good book for teenagers, and one which young boys can probably enjoy.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Source: B Montgomery
It's been school holiday time here and as a treat I took my family to the Melbourne zoo. Although one daughter loved the reptile house and the other daughter enjoyed seeing the lions, my favourite was the butterfly house. Just stepping through the doors brings you into tropical humidity, right in the middle of our bleak Victorian winter. We stayed in there for about fifteen minutes, taking photos and simply relaxing. (The zoo is hard on your feet-all that walking) Some of the butterflies were huge. They reminded me of the two types we often saw in the Solomons: the giant electric blue butterfly just like the Australian Ullysses, and an equally large brown and green butterfly.
I hope there are plenty of butterflies flitting around the school grounds in the Solomons now as the students get back into semester two. Good luck with your studies and all the best for form 3, SISC and PSSC exams.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper

A Brief history of Montmaray (Random House, 2008)
 When I first picked up this novel I knew nothing more than it was a YAF book that had sold well recently. I was delighted to find it was actually about an island, a fictitious one in the Bay of Biscay, off the coast of Spain. The story is set in 1936-37. Snippets of conversation refer to the Spanish Civil War and the rise of both facism and communisim throughout Europe.
   The story is about a royal family, very minor and now almost destitute, who cling to their island home despite the fact most of their subjects have settled in England. Sophie FitzOsborne is the central character and she writes her diary with wit and attention to detail. Her cousin Veronica is a formidable young woman who spends most of her time reading through history books; that's where the title comes from.
   The setting is bleak and isolated but the FitzOsborne girls love their island home and don't want to leave it. When circumstances force them to rethink their plans the story evolves into a gripping battle to survive the elements and the enemy.
   Although this is a historical novel I think the author has struck a good balance between creating an authentic past and maintaining a modern pace. I thoroughly enjoyed this book but with so much emphasis on women and girls, young men might not enjoy it so much. A Brief History of Montmaray won the 2009 Ethel Turner Prize for Young People's Literature.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Tambu Ground by Barry Hayes

The Tambu Ground (Boolarong Press, 1997)
 The Tambu Ground is a self-published novel written by a man who lived in the the Solomon Islands for a time working as a financial and commercial advisor for the Solomon Islands Broadcatsting Corporation. The story could do with a good editor to tighten much of the language and cull some uneccesary description but as to the basis of the plot, the story is a cracker.
   Tapu, the sole survivor of a natural disaster on his island, sets out to claim the tambu or sacred ground on the far side of his homeland. The story meanders from the outer islands to Honiara and back again. Along the way Tapu finds a faithful sidekick, Jimmy and a beautiful young girl to rescue. But he also earns the wrath of an evil custom magic man, Jullio, who will not rest until he kills Tapu.
   The tension in this book keeps the reader going but there isn't a lot of depth or insight into the characters. I found it was a pacey, exciting read, but not one of those stories that linger in your head for months and years after.
   Hayes has described the Solomons well, from Honiara's uncomfortable heat and dust to the cool lush forests and bountiful lagoons of the smaller islands. I think many Solomon Islanders would enjoy reading this for all the descriptions of their homeland. When I scanned my copy for posting on this blog I forgot to peel off the price sticker. I found this book at a bargain $4 in a second-hand bookshop. Amazing what you can find when you hunt around.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Getting old

Once again I've had time off blogging for family health reasons. This time my step-father took ill, had a stroke and has been in hospital for almost two weeks. It is sad to watch someone so independant struggle with the concept of having to rely on others. Here in Australia many elderly people live on their own, cut off from family and community. Some of them die in the houses without anyone knowing until days or weeks after. How tragic!
   When we were in the village last year I noticed that my elderly mother-in-law was never without companionship. Her kitchen hut was surrounded by the family huts of her children. One grandchild lived with her to make sure she was fed and safe while a constant stream of people visited her. I can't help thinking that she lives a more satisfying existance than our isolated and lonely old people in Australia.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sensational Survivors by Sandra Morris

Sensational Survivors (Walker Books, 2010)

Sensational Survivors is an illustrated guide to New Zealand's remarkable wildlife and it is beautiful. With almost A4 dimensions, the pages are filled with coloured pictures of New Zealand's creatures, some famous some obscure.
   The watercolour pictures are simple but captivating, particularly the birds and crayfish. Sandra Morris is a gifted wildlife artist who has won awards for her work in the past. Sensational Survivors is a finalist in both the NZ Post Awards and the LIANZA Awards this year.
   The text is sparse but has lots of interesting facts for the young reader. Marine animals are given as much attention in the text as the land creatures. There is even a two page spread on extinct species. 
   This is a delightful book for any children interested in wildlife. I would thoroghly recommend it for primary school aged children.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Painter in Fiji by Douglas Badcock

A Painter in Fiji (Whitcombe and Tombs, 1973)
Sometimes I find the strangest books in second-hand shops. Last week I discovered a small hardcover book called A Painter in Fiji which was published in 1973 by  Whitcombe and Tombs. It is a collection of sixteen paintings by Kiwi  Douglas Badcock. There are also plenty of preliminary sketches inside and some description of the artist's trip to Fiji. 
   Badcock has captured the colour and vibrance of village life well in his artwork. His style is very 'chunky' with broad brush-strokes used to dipict rock formations, coconut leaves and mountain ranges. Detail is sparse and merely suggested but the effect is pleasing. He uses the elements of shade and light well too.
   This book is a good one for the coffee table but it's presentation is dated. Contemporary art books are heaps better in terms of quality, but for something published so long ago this book is definately a treasure.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies (Faber and Faber, 1954)
Lord of the Flies is a modern classic and one that many literature students have studied the world over. It has become a favourite of mine even though I hated it when I first saw the film as a kid. I was terrified then. The dead airman with his billowing parachute filled my nightmares for years. PSSC students have this book as an option when studying a novel. It is certainly worth considering because the book isn't too long and most editions have plenty of study notes at the end to help you with meaning and finding quotes.
   I find the story itself deeply disturbing. How easy it was for a group of boys to kill their peers when forced to fend for themselves on an uninhabited island. 
  The book begins with the boys coming together after their plane has been shot down during a war. They are on a small island and no one knows where they are. They decide to organise themselves in order to be rescued by getting a bonfire ready. But their other aim while they wait on the island is 'to have fun'. Rival leaders Jack and Ralph form the basis of the main conflict in the story but the conflict in Ralph's heart is what makes this book such a brilliant character study. His strained relationship with Piggy is perfectly drawn, with every pause, every nuance of meaning so well written, that the reader feels as if they were inside the characters' heads.
   Lord of the Flies is more than a story of survival on a tropical island. It is a story of how close humans are to anarchy and how the threads of civilisation that bind us all can easily be broken if enough pressure is applied. This book really makes you think and that's why it's such a classic. But it's other strength is its masterful prose. Even if you aren't forced to study this book at some stage through high school, it's worth picking up anyway just for the experience.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Frangipani by Celestine Hitiura Vaite

Frangipani (Text, 2004)
 This book is another one of my all time favourites. Frangipani is the second book in the series about Materena, professional cleaner and Tahitian woman of wisdom, written by Celestine Hitiura Vaite. This book dwells on Materena's relationship with her teenage daughter Leilani.
   Leilani is attractive, very intelligent and just as stubborn as her mother. The two of them constantly lock horns with many hilarious outcomes. This book is just as funny and quirky as Breadfruit but the ending had me in tears. Not that anything horrible happens. It's just that you fall in love with Materena and her children so much that you can feel their pain when seperation occurs.
   This is a good book for PSSC students particularly as the main teenage character has so much drive and ambition. She is a good role model for our teenage girls. An enjoyable read from a very talented writer.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


My sister and I in Savo
A Solomon Island student once asked me why Australia had a Copra house in Sydney when we didn't grow coconuts. Ah, he meant the Sydney Opera House. Well there would be heaps of space inside that to dry truck loads of copra. Drying copra is a big deal in the Solomons. A lot of kids are in school solely because their families worked their butts off to cut enough copra to earn the cash for school fees.
Copra cutting contest
   When I was in Savo we happened by the Central Province Second Appointed Day celebrations. The highlight was the copra cutting contest. Now in Australia we have the woodchop at local shows where the crowd is kept well away from flying woodchips. Not so in the copra cut. The crowd inches closer and closer to the competitors as bush knives hack and coconut shells go flying . Scary stuff.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hunter by Joy Cowley

Hunter is a children's story set in New Zealand with a split plot. In the present are three children, survivor's of a light plane crash in the fiordlands of the south island of New Zealand. In the past is a Maori youth named Hunter, a runaway slave who early in the book comes face to face with a moa. Hunter is so in tune with his surroundings that he has the second sight: the ability to hunt and track any quarry. He also has visions of a white waka flying through the sky and crashing near a cave. If he shuts his eyes he can see survivors, three children who are cold, hungry and injured. He knows he can help them to survive in the wilderness, but his visions drift and fade. He is so drawn to the eldest child that he calls to her, hoping to connect somehow in their very seperate worlds and times.
   I really enjoyed this book as it was easy to feel for the characters. Cowley sets the scene of a cold, desolate wilderness. The three children squabble and sink into despair as the rain and mist and sandflies defeat them. They know they have to work together to stay alive but their relationships strain under the pressure.

Hunter (Puffin, 2005)

   Joy Cowley is a prolific and brilliant children's author. Many parents wouldn't realise that she's written dozens of educational readers that our young kids bring home to read each night. I adored her earlier work The Silent One which I will review here at a later date, but I guess it's enough to say that this lady is a quality writer. In some ways Hunter reminded me of Gary Paulsen's timeless novel Hatchet, but Hunter has a mystical quality that brings alive glimpses of Maori history and culture.
   Hunter is probably too easy for PSSC students but it is a great story for older primary and junior secondary school kids. It won the NZ Post Book Awards, Children and Young Adults book of the Year.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The tropical garden

It's autumn now in Victoria and leaves are falling from my fruit trees. The garden doesn't yield much at this time of year except some kiwifruit and silverbeet. I was looking at some photos yesterday of my time in Makira and remembered how easy it was to grow slippery cabbage all year round. We also had peanuts, sweet potato, ginger, tomatoes and beans growing in our garden. Students built a fence around the block to keep out the school cows and the whole area was bordered by the ubiquitous banana plants.
My daughter and our haus-girl in our garden. Source: B. Montgomery
   Makira is renowned for its bananas. There were dozens of varieties from big orange cooking types to slim green eating bananas and the more tasty short fat sugar bananas. I reckon the people of Makira made the best banana pudding in all the Solomon Islands.
   We also had a huge mango tree in our backyard. In October the flying foxes would feast at night, screeching and fighting. Their noise and the constant thump thump of falling mangoes on my roof would keep me awake. No matter how much I love my garden here in the temperate zone with all its seasonal changes, I still miss my tropical garden which was a constant supply of food.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Out of Action

My blogging activity has been on hold for over a week as my family has had some health dramas, chief of which was my five-year-old daughter having an attack of appendicitis. I was surprised how quickly she went from feeling a bit unwell, to being in major pain with a high temperature. Thankfully she had surgery and is now recovering well.
   The whole thing made me thankful for modern medicine and surgery techniques. I remember reading Roald Dahl's autobiographical book Boy. He explained that when he was very small his older sister, who was seven, died of appendicitis. His own father a month or so later, filled with grief, almost died of pnemonia. Although his accounts highlight the state of medicine one hundred years ago, in remote regions of Melanesia nothing much has changed. If a sick person can't make the five hour trek to a clinic, their chances of survival are pretty slim. How good it would be if villagers could reach medical aid quickly. I'm sure lots of lives could be saved.
   If you haven't read Boy, the book is a real treasure chest of funny anecdotes, revealing Dahl's fascination with sweets (no doubt leading to inspiration for his best-selling Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and his life as a young boy in boarding school.
   On holidays Dahl often visited his ancestoral land of Norway. He picnicked on small islands there and got up to mischief with his brothers and sisters. The islands in the fjords sounded beautiful. But I reckon they would be mighty cold. Give me the tropics any day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Taniwha of Wellington Harbour by Moira Wairama

This book is just gorgeous, if you could call giant pre-historic monsters with detailed facial tattoos gorgeous. It tells the custom story of two taniwha (giant mythical sea creatures) that are good friends and live in a big lake at the bottom of the north island of New Zealand.
The Taniwha of Wellington Harbour (Penguin, 2011)
   One day one of the taniwha gets so bored that he decides to bash his way through the land to the nearby sea. His action creates what is now known as Wellington Harbour. The other taniwha mourns his loss and tries to swim out through the heads only to be stuck in the sand. The legend tells of a giant earthquake that unearths the stuck taniwha and heaves him ashore to become a hill overlooking the harbour.
   My daughter who is almost six was captivated by the illustrations in this book. The two sea monsters look something like dinosaurs or even dragons but the illustrator Bruce Potter has brought to life their emotions. We really empathised with the slower, sadder taniwha that was left behind.
   This is a lovely book for bed-time reading for your children.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dangerous Love by Ben Okri

Dangerous Love is an African romance and I've decided to review it because it's one of those world books with 'mana' that are often overlooked in favour of English or American love stories. I don't normally enjoy romance novels so when I picked this book up I was half-hearted about it. It didn't take me long to be totally captivated and it's now one of my top-ten-best-ever reads.

Dangerous Love (Phoenix House, 1996)

   This is a tragic love story set in Nigeria in the 1970s just after the civil war. A young artist called Omovo falls in love with a woman who is trapped in a loveless arranged marriage. The husband's fury at her betrayl threatens their affair but poverty and illness impact upon their love too.
   The imagery in this novel is raw and tangible. The reader can hear and smell and taste the dusty city streets. I read this book more than ten years ago but I can still imagine the heroine in her yellow dress at the street party and the grime on the walls of the compound's communal bathroom.  I have since read other works by Ben Okri but this one remains my favourite.
    It isn't a book suitable for younger readers but I'm sure PSSC students could give it a try and enjoy it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Study notes: The short story

When preparing for PSSC exams it always pays to know at least two short stories so well that you can write about them easily. Alan Paton's 'The Waste Land' is a terrific story to keep in mind because it's so short but also because it's so powerful.
   The story opens with a middle-aged man stepping off a bus at night and sensing fear straight away. His fear is obvious as '...his mouth was already dry, his heart was pounding in his breast...' Fear is something we have all felt and so it's automatic that the reader instantly identifies with this man. The author uses the sound of the young men's approaching feet to raise the tension. The description of the bleak junk-yard setting also raises tension. There is no help for the man here, no chance of escape.
   Paton's describes panting, out-of-breath men so well that you can literally hear them. The reader squirms as the man struggles to silence his ragged breath as he hides from his pursuers. The twist at the climax of the story leaves the reader equally breathless as the tragedy reveals itself. If you haven't read this short story, you are missing out on a classic, one that will forever haunt you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Island cabbage

I've recently been drafting a science worksheet to do with classification. Having a background in horticulture my mind always thinks of plant examples for these types of things. So what did I think of? Different types of cabbage.

   My husband calls silverbeet 'cabbage'. I've just been out to the garden to harvest some silverbeet for dinner. Whilst there I weeded some 'love-lies-bleeding'. It grows like a weed in our yard. We also eat the leaves occassionally and my husband also calls it cabbage. These 'pseudo cabbages' are very different to the cabbage he yearns for: which is 'slippery cabbage'. Unfortunately it doesn't grow in the cold down here at the bottom of Australia.
   Its botanical name is Abelmoschus manihot and it sure is slippery. When you cut the leaves a clear slime oozes out. Some people find the texture revolting but you get used to it, especially if there is no other green veg about. The amazing thing about it is that it has so many names throughout the Pacific: bele, pele, aibika, island cabbage, hibiscus cabbage and slippery cabbage. No wonder it's a good candidate for a classification exercise.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Green Boy by Susan Cooper

It's weird how I often read several books in a row that have a similar theme. Last week I finished a book about saving an island from development (Kaitangata Twitch). This week I picked up Green Boy by Susan Cooper thinking it would be another action-packed children's story set in the British Isles and maybe have something more to do with the old myths and legends of Merlin's time. If you haven't read The Dark is Rising sequence then that's what those books are about and I recommend them highly.

   I was happily surprised though to discover that Green Boy was a Carribean island story about Trey and her little brother Lou who is mute but very special. And guess what! They are trying to save their beloved Long Pond Cay from development.
   But that's where the similarities end because the children are somehow transported to another world in the future where development has taken over and not a single untouched forest remains. There are wilderness areas though, filled with dangerous mutant creatures and a ragtag bunch of protesters who are desperate to find Lou ahead of the ruling Government forces.
   Green Boy is an enjoyable read probably suitable for senior Primary School level. I liked Cooper's description of the beaches and the boats and the terror of the hurricane that hits Trey's village. Trey's relationship with her father is also handled well. I got a real sense of who Trey was and where her loyalties lay. If you enjoy speculative fiction then give this novel a try. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kaitangata Twitch by Margaret Mahy

Kaitangata Twitch (Allen & Unwin, 2005)
New Zealander Margaret Mahy is a prolific children's writer who has won many awards. Kaitangata Twitch is another of her stories but perhaps not her best.
   The story is about Meredith Gallagher who is a dreamer and a sleep walker. There's Maori blood in her veins and she has a strong attachment to the little island of Kaitangita where the Maori people once practiced cannibalism. Meredith thinks the island is talking to her and when its wilderness is threatened by an unscrupulous developer Meredith and her family are compelled to fight for its preservation.
   This story was adapted for the screen and was recently shown as a miniseries on ABC TV. I never managed to see the series but I suspect it may have worked better than the book. I felt quite let down at the end of the story. The supernatural threat never seemed to be realised or was only alluded to, resulting in an anti-climax.
   I liked the way she drew her charcters though. Meredith and her family were very real and I think Mahy depicts the day to day interactions of her charcters beautifully.
   I think this book is a good one for junior readers because it's spooky but not so terrifying it will give you nightmares.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Counting House by David Dabydeen

The Counting House isn't a book set in the Pacific but it is an island book of sorts. I read this novel a few years ago and was shocked by it's frank account of greed, manipulation and sexual abuse. Set in the 19th century the story revolves around the marriage of Indian couple Rohini and Vidia who migrate to the Carribean to work on a plantation. They are poor peasants who believe their life in British Guiana will bring them wealth and success. Their marriage falters as they struggle to make a new life in a strange land.

The Counting House

   As a group of characters I found everyone in the book repulsive. They all seemed obsessed with money and status. However Dabydeen has done a good job in depicting the characters' motivations and so I could understand their obsessions even if I couldn't sympathise with them. Issues of caste, slavery and racism are all dealt with in a confronting manner.
   If you like a book with a bit of sex and violence, then maybe this is for you. But I found the subject matter a bit too grim for my liking.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Island hopping

The most economical way to get around island nations is on a ship, but oh boy what an experience! I think everyone who has lived in the islands has a horrendous boat story to tell. I know I have about four memorable trips etched into my brain, and one in particular where I was certain I would never make it back to the safety of Honiara.
   Boat travel is great material for your writing: all those smells, sounds, vibrations and the views of course.

My family on the Isabella (Source: B. Montgomery)

Travelling by ship, Solomons. (Source: B. Montgomery)

   Think about how sick you felt in the rocking waves, the diesel fumes, the throb of the engine, the vomit, the sea spray on your face, the chipped paint on the deck... It's all good stuff for descriptive writing.    When we travelled to Isabel in July we had the luxury of the first class cabin which was air-conditioned. (I don't think I could have survived out on deck in the heat and fumes) But even so the throng of the engine underneath us and the swell and roll of the ship made me feel so sick I spent the entire 22 hour trip lying on the floor with my head on a bag of rice (a makeshift pillow), while my husband mopped up everyone's vomit. Eeewww, yuck!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Cay by Theodore Taylor

This week as the awful tragedy unfolds in the island nation of Japan I always think of how hard it would be to escape or outrun a tsunami. Especially so if you lived on an atoll with no high points. My mind always returns to Theodore Taylor's classic island story The Cay.
The Cay (Penguin, 1969)
  Published in 1969 this children's novel tells the story of a young American boy injured by a bump to the head during his escape from a torpedoed ship during World War Two. Phillip is pulled to safety by an old 'negro' man, Timothy, who speaks in broken English and does his best to comfort the distressed boy whose vision begins to fail. Their only companion is Stew Cat, the ship's cat. They make their way to a deserted tropical island and set up camp. By this time Phillip is totally blind and depends on Timothy for everything.
   Phillip's prejudice against Timothy is strong but the patience of the old man brings about a slow change in Phillip's attitudes. When the tsunami hits, Phillip realises what a dear friend Timothy was. This book is such a treasure, not only for it's study of overcoming bigotry but also because of the recurring theme of survival against the odds.  It's a great book for Secondary school students, but it is probabbly too easy for PSSC standard. Even so, it's still worth reading. 
   I know The Cay can never compare to the horror of what has happened in Japan, where thousands of people are mourning the loss of family members and friends, however the book serves to remind us how we often take our relationships and life itself for granted.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Author Interview: Mandy Hager

Last week Resurrection, the third book in the Blood of the Lamb trilogy, was released. I interviewed Mandy Hager recently about the series and her writing process. 
Mandy Hager
1.      How did the idea for the Blood of the Lamb series come about? 
It seems weird now to answer this, as the books are a long way from the original idea! But the germ of the idea came from being a vegetarian! I was thinking about the way we treat animals – especially small farm holders – who raise animals with great love and warmth, yet eventually go on to kill and eat them! I was thinking how if you transferred this same kind of exploitative behaviour to children instead of other animals it would seem horrendous... and the book idea started growing from there! Also, I’d worked for 3 years as a writing mentor for a man who was a member of a Fijian cargo cult, and this got me thinking about the religious side of things, and how such a cult could develop.
2.      Did you originally pitch a series or was it at the publisher’s suggestion?
I had been thinking about this theme for a long time and had done quite a lot of research but wanted to walk around a cruise ship (I’m a very visual person and like to be able to explore settings etc so I can get a real feel for them) but couldn’t get on one because after Sept 11th security was so tight they wouldn’t let anybody on unless they were paying passengers! So I put the idea on hold. Later, my publisher jokingly asked if I had an idea that would suit a trilogy – I went home and started thinking about this old idea and realised it had enough story to be broken into 3 books. Luckily, by then I managed to wangle my way onto a cruise ship to look around!

3.      The Crossing strongly portrayed a Gilbertese setting. Have you a Kiribati connection?
No I don’t. But I worked for an organisation for 3 years who did a lot of work with Pacific Island development, so I knew a little about the issues facing many of the Pacific Islands, including issues of colonisation and climate change. At the time I started writing it I spent 3 weeks in Fiji – the first time I’d been to a Pacific Island other than Aotearoa – and this helped me to imagine the world I was creating. Also, I did a LOT of research!
4.      Do you work from a plan or develop the plot as you write a novel? What is your typical writing day?
Yes, I definitely plan – I strongly believe in this for me – I feel that knowing the structure of a book gives it drive and impels the reader through the story. I always know the main plot points before I start – but not how I’m going to get between each one – that’s the bit you have to trust to the magic of creativity – and it always throws up things I’d never have been able to plan in advance! When I’m working on a book I spend quite a lot of time making notes, doing research and planning, and getting to understand characters before I start. Once I start I try to write a chapter a week – write in the mornings and through to about 2 or 3pm, then print off and revise.
5.      Politics and religion are fair game in this series. Did you mean to be so controversial?
Not sure that I’d say I mean to be controversial – but I’m not scared of it! I come from a politically active family, so I guess it’s not surprising. I see things that really worry me about the world and figure that the only way I have any power to try and make things better is to express that worry and to encourage people to look a little harder at the causes and effects. I know the books will probably offend some people – but suspect that if they’re offended they have possibly heard about them but not read them! Because the books really just advocate for fairness, human rights, compassion and love – and how could anyone object to that?! I’m not attacking people’s right to believe in a higher power – but I do believe that everyone has the right to make up their own minds and not be controlled by the institutions who have set themselves up around this. We only have to look at what’s happening today to see the destructive force of using religion to suppress those who don’t do as they’re told by the people in control, and as a means of trying to oppress anyone who thinks differently.
6.      Can you give us an outline of Maryam’s adventures in the third book of the series, Resurrection.
I don’t want to give the plot away – but let’s just say Maryam faces her most challenging situation yet... and that she returns to Onewēre, and that it gets very scary!
7.      Why do you write for young adults?
I really like young adults and respect them – I want to speak to them honestly and say ‘hey – have you thought about things in this way?’ I have 2 children aged 25 and 22 – it terrifies me that they’re growing up in such uncertain times and I try to do everything I can to promote change for a better world. I write for young adults because it’s really important they think about what’s going on and are able to access lots of different points of view about what’s going on – not just the propaganda and rubbish they get fed in mainstream media. I want to try and activate them to ask the hard questions and demand better behaviour and morals from those in power.
8.      What are your favourite island stories?
Sadly there were not many island stories around when I was young, so I’d have to say Swiss Family Robinson and I remember a book I really loved by Armstrong Sperry called ‘The Boy Who Was Afraid.’ More recently, I’ve really enjoyed Lloyd Jones’s Mr Pip and books by Albert Wendt.
9.      If you could visit any island in the world, where would you choose?
Although I’d love to visit more Pacific Islands I’d have to say Zanzibar, off the coast of East Africa. This was where my mother was born, and she loved it so dearly I’d love to go there and experience it for myself.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Shark God by Charles Montgomery

The Shark God (Fourth Estate, 2006)
 The Shark God is my favourite non-fiction island book. It was first published as The Last Heathen in Canada in 2004 and won the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction in 2005. It's written like a travel book and follows the trip of journalist Charles Montgomery as he tries to follow the footsteps of his great-gradfather who was a missionary in the South Pacific. The story of Bishop Patteson's martyrdom on Nukapu in 1871 is the cornerstone of Montgomery's childhood fantasies of Melanesia. As an adult Montgomery decides to travel through Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands documenting the people's connection with the spiritual.
   It is an engrossing book with so many funny encounters and a few scary ones too. His trip to Kwaio is spooky to say the least.

Students dancing as evil spirits. Source: B. Montgomery
    The book is great in a theological sense because it talks about the Christian history of Melanesia and also looks at how Christianity has developed there today. But it also delves deep into the spirit world and ancestor worship which is so central to understanding Melanesian roots.
   In many ways this book is like an old friend. I could sympathise with Montgomery's frustration at trying to get a boat to Temotu and I loved his memorable encounters with the Tasiu (Melanesian Brothers) and the spattering of Pijin throughout the text.
Novice Francis and Jezeloni. Source: B. Montgomery
   The chapter called 'The Brothers and Their Miracles' made me cry. It documented some of Brother Francis' peace work during the ethnic tension. I knew Brother Francis when he was a seventeen-year-old novice at Fox Household in Makira. He was such a gentle, sweet young man. (He is pictured here with my daughter Jezeloni) Years on and now he is a martyr. Such a sad loss.
   Even if you're not into church history, if you love the Pacific you'll get a lot of enjoyment out of this book.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Breadfruit by Celestine Hitiura Vaite

This book is just delightful. It's the story of Materena, a Tahitian lady who loves to sweep, or broom as she puts it. (which is what all the Nauruan kids call it too) She's a feisty lady who knows what she wants and she tells her story with the freshest, funniest island voice. A devout Catholic, her inspiration is the Virgin Mary Understanding Woman, whom she spends a lot of time revering.

Breadfruit (Text Publishing, 2000)

   Materena lives with her man Pito and their three children. One day whilst drunk, Pito proposes to her and so the story forms around the preparations for the wedding. The trouble is that Pito seems to have forgotten about the proposal and has no intention of making their union recognised in a church.
   Each chapter tells a different tale about various members of Materena's extended family and their daily life in Tahiti.
   The humour in this book is gentle and the effect is so warm and endearing that you simply fall in love with Materena  after the first page.
   Breadfruit would be a great book for PSSC students and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who likes funny books.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Jimi Nare's Tribalo

T-Shirt design. Jimi Nare

Four fish. Jimi Nare

Years ago when I lived in the Solomon Islands I asked a friend who made tie-dyed lava lavas to decorate some bed linen for me in a lizard and gecko design. The result was great and I still use the linen although a couple of the pilow cases are almost threadbare. Now this guy lives in Australia and produces art work with a tribal theme. Yes, Jimi Nare has hit the big time with his Tribalo Art Studio. You can check out his work if you're driving through Bacchus Marsh in Victoria.
   Much of Jimi's work deals with traditional symetrical designs or sea creatures. He also paints the Western province icon, the nguzu nguzu frequently.
Symetrical design. Jimi Nare.
   Jimi is a musician too and he designed a T-shirt for his band Solburn Crew.  I love Jimi's work as it's such a great mix of traditional and contemporary styles. For Christmas I treated myself to one of his fish paintings, a lion fish painted in dark tones, which now sits in my study.