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.

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. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fierce September by Fleur Beale

This is the second book in the futuristic Juno series written by popular kiwi author Fleur Beale. The first book, Juno of Taris, won the Esther Glen Award in the 2009 LIANZA Children's Book Awards. Fierce September follows the lives of the 500 Tarians rescued from their failing dome by the ship from Aotearoa. The leader of the rescue mission, Willem Brasted, shows a keen interest in sisters Juno and Hera and their telepathic abilities. Hera's insight saves the ship from a terrorist plot but nothing can help the refugees when a pandemic hits the country just days after they land.
Fierce September (Random House, 2010)
   The whole country shuts down under quarantine laws which make life stressful for the people of Taris. They had hoped for a life of freedom. The Tarians are blamed for the disease outbreak and animosity towards them esculates. Juno and her friends are able to tap into the new technology available and attempt to thwart the hate campaign that is raging against them.
   This book doesn't fit the theme of an island story as neatly as its predecessor, however it still has a strong and engaging plot. The mystery of who is behind the hate campaign holds the reader till the end and makes it a well plotted thriller.
   I feel that if you haven't read the first book you may struggle with the huge list of characters. There are genuine blog sites listed at the end of each chapter, which is a good way of connecting with computer savvy readers who want to interact more with the story. I must say I enjoyed this book a lot. It's a pacey read and has relevance in our current political climate where assylum seekers are treated so badly.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Counting the Stars by Gavin Bishop

Counting the Stars (Random House, 2009)
   Counting the Stars is the latest book of Maori Myths from talented author illustrator Gavin Bishop. His simple yet effective style is maintained in this book with terrific, if sometimes scary, drawings. I must admit the picture of Kae sleeping with two pieces of paua on his closed eyes was alarming.  However Bishop's bold, broad strokes depict Maori designs wonderfully. 
   Again some pages are quite dark and gloomy, particularly in the creation myth at the start, but for the most part the pictures are colourful and busy and had my kids talking.
   There are four myths in this book and my favourite was 'The Battle of the Birds'. After reading Skydancer by Witi Ihimaera, this story was like an old friend.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Study Notes: Character

By now PSSC students should be reading their assigned novel or non-fiction book. If not, I'm sure your teachers will be organising it by the end of the month. With so much work to do in PSSC it really is important to read your set book as soon as possible. Even a few pages a night is better than nothing at all. Once you are through the first three chapters it's good to pause and make a few notes about the central character. Getting to know the main characters, their motivations and relationships with other characters is vital.
   Later in the year when you sit the exam, if you choose to write a literature essay on your set novel, you will seem a fool if you cannot fully describe the main character. By this I don't mean, short/tall, dark/fair, fat/thin. This is only appearance. You must be able to describe the main character's personality and how this has a bearing on his relationships to others.

Nigerian village. Source: visualrian.com

   For instance Okonkwo, in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, is a proud, strong warrior who follows his tribe's traditions fiercely. He 'ruled his household with a heavy hand' (TFA, p.9). He was a man who feared failure and weakness, things he associated with his father. Okonkwo hated everything his father had loved, such as gentleness and idleness. (TFA, p10.) If Okonkwo's children or wives were lazy he would punish them.
   From these few details and quotes we can understand Okonkwo's basic character, what he thinks of his father and what motivates him to be such a hard-working, custom-driven man.
    Pick out short quotes and the page number and write them in your diary. Just flicking through the first few chapters is enough.  During the exam you will be expected to produce quotes with page numbers so keeping them short and simple is best. When you are under pressure in an exam it's too hard trying to remember long complicated quotes.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Misleading titles

I recently borrowed a book from the library because I thought the title fitted the theme of this blog perfectly. The book is called Tuvalu and it won the Australian Vogel Literary Award a few years ago. The story is about a young man teaching English in Japan and having problems with his love life. 

Tuvaluan kids. Source:anniekatec.blogspot.com
     I was disappointed to find that the topic of Tuvalu, a string of islands in the Pacific, doesn't even come up until page 243. Even then, it's only to refer to it as one of the main character's dream destinations, a place she realises she'll probably never visit. I was horrified that this proud little nation could have it's name used in such a trivial way. What a misleading title! Why not call the book Australia, seeing as it was set in Japan? It makes just as much sense.
   So how do titles come about? Often what the author has as the title gets altered during the publishing process. My book The Birthmark had the working title Lilith, but the publishers weren't keen on this and changed the title and name of the protagonist. This is quite common.
   Titles can be derived from a phrase in the text such as with Once Were Warriors, or can be the name of a place or object that is prominent in the story. But however they are derived, publishers try to get the best title out there to attract sales. It's as simple as that.
   When you're writing a story for an assignment, often the title is something you worry over. Don't! Just get on with the story and come back to the title at the end. Then the title may be more obvious. Oh, and try not to make the title too misleading.