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, 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.