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.

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.